Statistically, Pudupettai is where we have marched half the pride parades in Chennai.

Pudupettai the Pride of Chennai Rainbow Parade
Features Pride Parade Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 10:23

By Moulee

Chennai has been celebrating its annual Rainbow Pride Parade on the last Sunday of June for the past eight years. This year, the Parade was held on June 26. And this is this fourth year in a row where we walk-dance-sing in the lanes of Pudupettai.

Statistically, Pudupettai is where we have marched half the pride parades in Chennai. The first three pride parades happened at Marina beach and the fourth one at Besant Nagar beach. If I am not wrong, from 2013 all the rallies – political, non-political - in the city were moved to Pudupettai for administrative reasons. And the city police see the pride parade as a rally and they let us march on the new route.

There are various opinions within the queer community regarding the Pudupettai route. The most common is about how the route is not swanky. People have called Chennai Rainbow Pride an embarrassment because of its route. In an online discussion someone said, “I don’t want to walk in that dingy place wearing my 7000 rupee shoes”. A couple of months back, the Chennai Rainbow Pride route was the butt of a joke in a stand-up comedy. And few individuals in every Pride planning meeting will share the resentment about the route. We are not a homogeneous group; we ought to have difference in our opinions.

I have a special fondness towards Pudupettai route. The stretch is a mixture of hardware stores, workshops and low-income residential blocks. I get to see people’s reactions when I am not dancing and singing or shouting slogans. And every year, the locals join us in the celebration. This is something unique only to this route. People’s reactions are genuine and this is the only time in the year where I get to see and hear the reaction on queer individuals from a population that is not exposed to the queer politics and culture. And as far as I have seen, their reactions were positive.

During the parade last year, my friends and I approached a workshop for water. As the man handed us a bottle, he asked what this rally was about. My friend said, “This is a rally to ask rights for alternate sexuality and gender - transgender and same-sex people.” Without hesitation he replied, “It’s your life, live it”. A few meters away, a woman had placed a pot outside her house and distributed water. Along the way, I heard a teenager shout for someone to come see ‘her’ people walking in the rally. A transgender person rushed out and a woman nearby told her to join us in the celebration. These are the small perks that one would not witness at Marina or Besant Nagar beach.

Pride marches mean different things for different people. For me it is a political statement, a day when we come out on the street to show the world that we exist; where we occupy the little stretch for a few hours once a year. This is also the time where we forget the differences among us and celebrate and appreciate the uniqueness among us. Additionally, It gives me an opportunity to be more flamboyant and fabulous - on the top – on the face – more skin - and to rub my sexuality on the city. And I am unapologetic about it. Because pride parades ought to challenge all kinds of oppression, hetero-patriarchy, gender stereotypes and moral policing, and let us not be classists when we oppose all these. As we explore our desires, let us also explore the route for our pride parade whenever possible.

Images by Kiran

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