First of all, we must tell you how excited we are about one, kickstarting the pride month with an article on pride, and two, writing it together as a same-sex couple. While we both did a mind hunt for interesting duo names like Pakoda and Pani puri, we zeroed in on a subtle R and T. We went to the 9th Indradhanu Pune Pride on Sunday, 2nd June, organised by the Indradhanu Committee of the Samapathik Trust. And people, we have stuff to share! So if you missed out on the Pride month’s first pride, let us fill you in through our conversation.
R: I was super excited about the Pune pride since I came here. I couldn’t attend last year so this year when you told me, I was sure we were going. This might be my last pride in India, so I really wanted to attend it. Pune is a small city, I wasn’t expecting a big turnout actually. But when I went there I saw a horde! People putting up the pride flag outside Sambhaji Park where we were to assemble for the pride, community friends hugging each other, I just felt like I was among my people. What about you?
T: This was my first pride in Pune too! It was pretty vibrant when we went there, no? I saw Harish Iyer and my day felt better (he is so energetic yaar!). There was something that I found a bit concerning though. While I was reading the Pride rules put up by the organising committee on Facebook, I felt they didn’t sound very pride-like to me (The rule: “Requesting participants to cover their breasts and private parts while dressing. Any political party/caste/religion/history character based banners, flags, hoarding, shouting, slogans will not be entertained. Indradhanu Pune pride committee holds all the final rights of pulling down any objectionable content, if observed during the pride walk.”)
R: I was really surprised too! I have been to Istanbul, Taiwan, and Mumbai prides and I never heard of such rules. How can we separate our gender identities from our caste/religion/ethnic identities? It is like saying that for the pride I’ll wear my queerness but will keep my religion at home to rest. This is censorship! When you come to a pride you are putting all of yourself in this space, which means if you are queer and muslim, you feel pride in your identity as a queer muslim person, right?
T: I agree! Pride is political. And to say that my caste and religion do not feature with my queerness seems like taking away my politics from me. I mean they might have thought ‘queer first!’, but I can’t just, as you said, say wait religion today sexuality will appear in public and claim spaces it has been denied off and you will stay back. What do you think about the rule of covering one’s private parts? Sounded strict to me.
R: I want to understand what they mean by “private parts?” I want to show my belly, can I not? Or do they mean bare breasts, exposed backs, peeking vaginas, or see through tops revealing your nipples? Because if you say we cannot show our bodies, are you saying we cannot express ourselves freely? Are you saying that the community’s image will be hurt? Does this then not hinge on the very freedom of expression that we fight for everyday?
T: It was constricting. When I went to the pride I didn’t imagine people wearing costumes or colours even. But when we went there, there were quite a few people wearing flamboyant clothes, holding catchy banners, and happily agreeing to requests of being clicked.
R: Actually the pride started well. There were dhols and people danced within a dhol circle for a few minutes but then we were asked to just start walking. There were no slogans except “I am gay that’s okay, I am trans that’s okay…” I felt like we were walking in a military procession occasionally reminding each other through a “I am gay that’s okay” that it is in fact a pride march. I tried to keep looking for signs of visibility of pansexual, intersex, asexual identities but couldn’t find any. The Mumbai pride I attended this year was so different! And I don’t mean that as a criticism because every city is different but I just thought Pune was less diverse.
R: But I really like to see people greet each other, hug each other because it is our people. It is my community and I feel safe to walk on the streets with my people. Friends of friends meet, there is this happiness encapsulating everyone and I feel it touches me too. But I also felt a little out of place maybe because I am a foreigner or maybe because I have no sign on my body that says I belong to the community. I looked like an outsider. I didn’t know how to place myself inside really.
T: Why do you think having some markers like a flag, a costume, etc are important? Because when you put your body where your heart is, why do you feel compelled to ‘show’ that you are indeed from the community.
R: When I stood there I saw people wearing bisexual flag, rainbow flags adorning their bodies, there were trans women having a prop of a weighing scale which weighed heavier in favour of justice and lighter towards transphobia, and I just felt I didn’t share/express my identity with the community. So I just looked around and I was like how should I communicate that I have come out? I just followed them where they walked but couldn’t quite place myself there with them. I could put my body and mind in the Mumbai pride though. I don’t know what that suggests yet.
T: I think I get you. I haven’t come out so when I went to the pride I saw people greeting each other by names and I felt so invisible. Like I didn’t exist if I didn’t come out. People have told me I do not look queer and I just want to ask what perception do they have of queer people? And what does it even mean to “look queer”?
Anyway, I just felt great that I was with you. Walking with you in the pride holding hands feels good. I feel a little visible, more than a little okay.
R: There was a moment when I was walking with you and I really wanted to kiss you but I didn’t because one, you haven’t come out yet, and two, the notions of morality in the city and pride just seemed too heavy. So I just looked at you and thought at least we came together, and I felt okay.
Attending pride as a couple for us means watching your partner run haphazardly to click pictures, sweat profusely, click a bunch load of selfies when we do not like to be clicked much, and just holding hands and looking at each other with the feeling of being in this world together.