Growing up with a sexuality that isn’t largely accepted, I despised public spaces, gatherings, and events. When I would see pictures and videos of pride marches, I have to agree that I was a bit repulsed by them. I always questioned the real purpose of these events. As I grew older, common sense started pushing out the socially fed homophobe in me. I attended two whole pride marches in a different city just so to prepare myself. I understood that they weren’t about showing off exuberance but something greater. I realised, that it wasn’t about another form of authoritarianism but blatantly denied personal freedom. Here are eight of the many things I learned from my first pride march in Mumbai.
Acceptance: Pride marches are about acceptance. People from a wide range of spectrum come together for ONE DAY in a year to celebrate their existence and their individuality. There is no blindfolded agenda but a message that people beyond the popular self-proclaimed binary, exist. Pride is to demand our right to live a life full of dignity, respect, and acceptance.
Identity: Pride marches are also about feeling one with your identity in public. Walking a march full of happy, colourful and cheerful people can say a lot about self-esteem and well-being of a community. Mumbai pride 2018 was exactly about feeling identified, recognised, validated and loved.
Celebration: While marriages in India have transformed from a ritual to choice to a business, some people still don’t have enough recognition or privileges just yet. Whilst the world within the binary continues to publicly display love with marriages, anniversaries and roses, the world outside the binary celebrates and fights for love with pride marches.
Amplifying our voice: All the songs, slogans and shouting are not an exercise to channel our speech and volume in public, it is an effort to amplify our voice against all the social oppression and be heard. It is very common to hear LGBTQIA+ experiences of bullying, harassment, and abuse, screaming lungs out on the drug of love, hope, and warmth for a day doesn’t seem like bad therapy.
Creation of safe public spaces: Sadly, there is also a dearth of safe recreational and entertainment spaces for us. Pride marches enable us to feel and use public spaces for us, safely. It is an attempt to encourage, express and discern. Are we really now calling it anything less than activism?
Unity in diversity: While heterosexual and homophobic people tend to club LGBTQIA+ individuals in one umbrella, please note again that there are vast differences between each one of us. Keeping that in mind, a pride march proves to be an excellent opportunity to come together as a whole, to share and enjoy in unison.
Socialising: Pride marches can give you a real and fair representation of the social, political, and economic conditions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and other unidentified or queer people of India. It is something that most social or popular media will misrepresent. Don’t believe it? Go out and actually be a part of it. Who knows if you make new friends, meet really good people or just meet some old and lovely mates?
Feeling Good: Honestly, 2018 Mumbai Pride for me was mostly about feeling good, validated and loved. Pride marches promise to be a big bubble of love from all kinds of people who understand and largely go beyond self-measured boundaries of care and appreciation. If that’s something you believe in, just go!
Some tips that I’d like to add to everyone not participating but being present for ally-ship, official, academic or other purposes:
- Assert your presence but not over those who actively participate.
- Respect. Their. Privacy. Always ask if they want to be clicked or not. Don’t assume people at pride dress up for photos or social media debauchery.
- Talk to everyone, not just woke millennials.
- Bring placards, brochures, sex education books and try to leave your agenda behind.
- Be alert and mindful of the surrounding.
- Stay hydrated.
- Support people with a visible disability or those without the privileges you have.
*Views expressed in this post belong to the author and aren’t endorsed by any organisation.