• Wednesday, July 01, 2015 - 05:30
A pride parade in Istanbul a few years ago   The last Sunday of June every year is specially celebrated literally in a sea of colours across the globe for a particular reason – as a part of efforts to bring a positive visibility to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and stamp their space in the community.   For Chennai considered conservative by regular Indian standards, the city has entered its seventh year of celebrating and rejoicing the LGBT community. Organised by the Tamil Nadu Rainbow Coalition, the month included plays by a theatre group, panel discussions, a story-telling workshop which finally culminated in the Chennai Pride Parade 2015.   At the Chennai Pride Parade this year   Though conducted religiously each year, organisers however, have questioned the declining participation in the parade. Vikram, of an NGO, Nirangal and one of the organisers of the event, felt that it was mainly an issue of coming out.   “We did allow people to use masks. But there are some people who just don’t want to be a part of the activism. They have gone to their closeted life,” he said. But the numbers who turned up have not been up to their expectation.   According to him, Chennai has been one of the main cities celebrating the gay pride parade for the longest time, it was Kolkata that first set off the movement in India in 2003.      “Tamil Nadu was the first state to officially recognise the transgender community. They did this even before the Supreme Court did the same,” says Sivakumar, the founder of Nirangal, one of the organising NGOs which works for gender and sexuality rights.   Where did the parades originate from?   The event celebrated worldwide is in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall protests during which a gay bar, the “Stonewall Inn” in Manhattan, New York City was raided by police which resulted in revolts. A period during which police checks on gay bars were frequent, the raid itself occurred when the club was serving liquor without the required licence. However, after repeated targeting by the police, the crowd gathered there that day began rioting against the officers who had arrested some of the bar’s employees. A calm crowd that slowly grew restless over the manner in which those arrested were being treated, it has come to represent one of the single most important turning points in gay history. In 1970, the first gay Pride March was celebrated in commemoration of the riots.   It’s been over 45 years since then.   Interestingly, organisers of the Chennai pride parade say that though people still refrain from coming out, it was encouraging mainly when it wasn’t just the said individuals who came forward, but were encouraged to bring along a supportive family that stood by their child no matter what their sexual orientation.   Atleast 500 people participated in the parade from Raja Rathinam Stadium in Egmore, to Mahatma Gandhi Road in Nungambakkam.   As a part of celebrations, the Chennai International Queer Film Festival, 2015 is expected to be held on 24th, 25th and 26th of July. Organised by Orinam, it will be showcased in the Goethe-Institute in Chennai.     The last few days have been a tumult of expression for LGBT rights atleast in the online world in this part of the globe. With the US Supreme Court legalising same-sex marriages across all its states, the States has now joined an elite league of countries including France, England, Canada and Brazil. For India, however, the idea of legalising same-sex marriages will take its own due course of time to find acceptance in society. It’s mostly the youngsters who come out and support, practice activism, while the older generation prefer to stay silent, say organisers.   In India, marriage isn’t usually just about two individuals. Keeping this in mind and understanding the importance of roping in family members to help them accept the LGBT community’s positive presence in society will thus help in the longer run.   One only accepts something new when they first attempt understanding it.