Mumbai’s Color Positive Foundation hosted its first pride parade on 28th January. Interestingly, an event representing one of the most diversely oppressed communities has been getting a lot of flak for its deliberate avoidance of politics. Some of the guidelines that the organizers have issued include a prohibition against political placards and the criticism of the Indian majoritarian Right-wing. Savio Mascarenhas, the founder of the foundation has stated, “What we said is, if you want to talk about politics, talk about the politics related to the LGBTQ+ community. Because our rights matter and we need to fight to get us legal rights.” His ambiguous and diplomatic words find a bit more clarity in “For example, If I can’t marry, I can’t talk about laws related to alimony. So, discuss politics around the right to marry.” In a few sentences, he ignored every queer person in a heterosexual marriage arrangement. He forgot how being queer has always been a tussle with the authoritarian state.
A simple google search defines pride as “the feeling of pleasure that you have when you or people who are close to you do something good or own something good” or “the respect that you have for yourself“. Why do people from the LGBTQ+ community need to organize and participate in pride parades is one of the most frequently asked questions by people who do not belong to the community. What is it about not being straight that one needs to feel proud of? Things have gone as far as there being instances of straight prides as a counter statement and emergence of terminology like super straight (the official exclusion of trans people from dating spheres as if they did not already face deep-rooted prejudice and segregation). The history of pride is an iconic one. It began as a protest against a police raid on a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn which further inspired the now legendary Stonewall Uprising. The word uprising has now been substituted by riots as if queer people in the early 70s held enough power and resources and liberty to instigate something as one-sided as riots. TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) and SWERFs (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists) have also forgotten how the pioneers of the Stonewall Uprising (Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera) were drag queens of color who even had to resort to sex work out of helplessness. Their brand of politics, with their transphobia and prudity forgets how much cisgendered lesbians owe to the likes of Johnson and Rivera.
Meanwhile, on 8th of January, queers and allies of the capital battled the harsh Delhi cold and blinding smog that symbolize the struggles they go through. Xaz told me about their experiences at the Delhi Pride, “Pride for me was pretty overwhelming given it was the largest it has ever been. It felt very rushed but happy. I bumped into people I knew. It was really great getting to know the fact that so many queer people exist. They (the organizers) did have a ‘pride should not be political’ stance but that didn’t stop people from saying political slogans which was amazing. The end was honestly very aggravating though, as soon as the time went up, the police started to blow their whistle, forcing people to evacuate immediately through small exits and might have caused a stampede.” Pride for them was both euphoric and claustrophobic. Another participant felt the lack of Dalit representation at the event. Pride for them seemed like an upper-caste affair. There was a poster that used religious symbols to ask for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Do queer people need to be assimilated with their oppressors to be socially accepted? Perhaps nobody sums up the gravitas of pride better than the Instagram user that goes by the handle @kaalimirch_. Very poetically, they wrote, “If only people understood that going back home from pride is more political than marching those two kilometers. It is the work of returning from your queerness to a world that is still, largely, built to keep you out. You meet your shame again on the streets, in the metro, at the back of an auto. You are no longer graceful-the passing gaze of strangers and the occasional teasing on the road tells you that your saree looks wrong on your body. I march to remember what is left of us when pride is over.” Pride for them is an imperfect utopia that works as an escape twice a year.
Pride is Rajkumar Rao as a police inspector (Shardul) putting on a rainbow-feathered mask as his way of participating in an event that his institutional profession is supposed to be an archenemy and suppressor of. Pride is also him having to marry a lesbian woman in order to be eligible to adopt a child for the law that he protects is discriminatory. Pride might as well just be as subjective as its literal meaning and as diverse as its participants.
Sarthak Parashar is a student pursuing English Hons. from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Rutba Manzoor