When I was little, I associated June with long summer days, no school, and evenings spent staring at my body in a bathing suit, trying to figure out why I felt like something was wrong. At nineteen, my mind equates June with pride month. A largely western concept to my mind, LGBT Pride month is an annual occurrence in the United States. In commemoration and remembrance of the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969, pride aims to unite and empower queer people. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognize the impact LGBT people have had in the world. I find myself roaming the streets of New York City in search of a cup of chai, and am blinded by rainbow flags. Common symbols of pride are the rainbow or pride flag, the lowercase Greek letter lambda (?), the pink triangle and the black triangle (the latter two reclaimed from use as badges of shame in Nazi concentration camps). At first, I am disoriented— a rainbow flag hardly encompasses the complicated relationship I have with queerness. I am stuck between a bright red and a dark violet, trying to find the colors to best describe myself. I have conversations with my mother— she asks me when I will get married, and I don’t tell her about my girlfriend. But this year, I choose to march in June.
Last week, my queer friend asked me if I wanted to go to the NYC Pride march with him. The possibility was exhilarating — all of those masses of people clad in rainbow colors and shirts emblazoned with puns, whooping and hollering, celebrating progress and self-love. Pride felt like the culmination of my 19-year-long journey toward accepting myself, a chance to say to the world, “I’m not going away”. But how much of me will really march on June 24th? Can all the little bits and pieces of my identity ever coexist? I find myself trying to fit several jigsaw pieces together— a patiata salwar, pronouns my parents aren’t aware of, a cup of chai, a rainbow flag. I read of violence against queer people all around the world, and I wonder if it is worth it at all. My friends in the United States wear their pride on their shirts. I wear it in my mind, in unspoken words, in seas and oceans of diaspora.
As flyers and posters flood the streets of New York City, I think to myself: what if I do this? What if, for one day, my queerness, my transness, my identity was out in the streets? Far away from childhood friends and family, I could have the privilege of being public. Being desi in the United States allows me to have two different vocabularies. Here, people in the LGBTQ community have had many gains to celebrate over the last decade. Marriage became legal. Caitlyn Jenner and others pushed open doors for transgender people. Many states elected openly queer leaders. Several companies and institutions dropped their ban on queer employees. But I think again of how my family would react to me coming out, I think of the glares I would get from old ladies at the swimming pool when I choose to wear ‘men’s clothing’ after changing out of my bathing suit.
And this time, I choose to live with the dissonance. After all, pride was born out of protest—and this June, I will march as a protest. For me, pride is a chance for me to reclaim my body, my identity, and the intersections between my queerness and my nationality. As a person of color, this country remains unsafe, but for a day, I will wear a rainbow flag on my shoulders and carry with me, my own personal history. And some day, perhaps, I will find myself in New Delhi, marching on the streets I grew up on, with the people I love, with the acceptance that every queer person deserves.