Dear Mumbai Pride, The Personal Is Political

The organizers use the line, “There is no one who has any right to call Pride their official event. It belongs to no one.” So perhaps it is worth remembering that if what you intend to organize is Pride, then you cannot forgo the ethos of what the event signifies for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Earlier this month, Mumbaikars of the LGBTQIA+ variety rejoiced when they heard that Pride March was finally returning.

The Color Positive Foundation announced that they would be organizing their very first Pride March and Mumbai’s 11th Pride March on 28th January, 2023. The announcement was met with much confusion as the Pride March is usually organized by the Queer Azaadi Movement (QAM). Since the political tumult at the 2020 Pride March, QAM has also found itself in hot water. After the announcement, they issued a statement that they were not associated with the aforementioned.

Eager to attend a collective event after the pandemic pressed pause, several Mumbai-based LGBQIA+ folks shared excited posts about the March. But the anticipation was quickly quelled.

Exploring Color Positive Foundation’s Instagram page, the first thing that stands out is their bio. It reads “Making the Cis-Het fit in the LGBTQIA+.” As a community that has fought so long to assert its identity in a cisheteronormative world, why would any organization find it appropriate to want to fit in the mainstream willingly? More red flags began to pop up when the page began posting regulations for the Pride. Some of the issues that cropped up included this portion of their FAQs:

The organizers use the line, “There is no one who has any right to call Pride their official event. It belongs to no one.” So perhaps it is worth remembering that if what you intend to organize is Pride, then you cannot forgo the ethos of what the event signifies for the LGBTQIA+ community.

A quick history lesson: The early Pride marches were held in 1970 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. The Stonewall riots were a series of protests in the US led by members of the queer community against police raids, particularly on local gay and lesbian bars. Decades of queer activism led to this watershed moment and the Pride marches across the world continue to carry that legacy forward, advocating for greater equality and inclusion.

However, for the Color Positive Foundation, their outlined aims broadly include the Right to Marry, Adopt and to make gender-based laws more inclusive. How can the community even hope to come close to these goals without adopting a stance around the socio-political barriers that stand in our way? Are the organizers truly of the opinion that the actions of the ruling party and queer liberation exist in silos?

In order to better understand the stance of the organizer, the reporter reached out to them via Instagram. From their communications, they seemed defensive and insisted that we hold back on writing about the March till the event has occurred. At the time of publication, they are yet to revert with a willingness to answer the questions we have.

Can queer liberation exist in a vacuum?

While some clarity would have been worthwhile, it is understandable that not all organizers may want to make themselves liable for legal actions should things take a turn for the worse. So then, in the absence of a strong political message, let’s call this what it is, a queer gathering, a party, perhaps. Because the message and activism associated with Pride cannot be diluted with an apolitical stance.

“As of now, I am unaware of any of my friends who are keen on attending this mess as they have surely let down a large number of queer people not only of Mumbai but everyone, everywhere in general. Unfortunately, the happiness and the excitement were short-lived,” says Aditya, a 21-year-old queer person.

He replied to one of the Color Positive Foundation’s stories to register not only his protest but also his astonishment at their disgraceful apolitical stance. “They replied to me about how bhakts don’t govern and make laws in India and that there’s no point in protesting against them, which was unanticipated,” he adds. He says that he chose not to engage further for his own peace of mind.

 Another Twitter user also shared their interaction with Color Positive Foundation stating their disappointment about their regulations. The Foundation replied stating that the ruling party cannot do anything for us, only the laws can. Do the organizers also need a civics lesson, because we are ready to educate, just say the word. We are left wondering what “social awareness” they intend to raise when their foundational knowledge of law-making leaves much to be desired.

When LGBTQIA+ youth are still being bullied and forced to drop out of school, when trans folks are still finding it challenging to get work, and when queer people are struggling to be housed, is that not a political issue? Or is that simply a social issue that can be fixed with a large-scale behavioural adjustment? When a lawyer’s sexual orientation and advocacy for the LGBTQIA+ community is cited as a possible bias to prevent him from becoming a High Court judge, is that not a political issue?

As a community itself, we are so fragmented, so much so that we have hardly seen progress. Do breakthroughs come from bending down to the will of the cishets? Because that is not what pioneers like Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stormé DeLarverie taught us. Our march towards more inclusion will be fought for, not earned by bowing, conforming, or squeezing ourselves into the mere inches of inclusivity that they so graciously offer us.

One thought on “Dear Mumbai Pride, The Personal Is Political

  1. Any divisive statement, which is harmful to the integrity of the nation under the guise of a congregation of the sexual minorities will invite compaints , legal intervention, no body irrespective of the sexual preference should promote an agenda that is detrimental to the peace, communal harmony and integrity of the nation. The hoarse placard holders need to remember that no cause supercedes the nation .

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Sherina Poyyail (she/they) is a Mumbai-based journalist and content strategist whose work revolves around gender, mental health and the future of work. They can be found hoarding books instead of reading them or overcaffeinating and ranting on Twitter at @sherinapoyyail.
Sherina Poyyail

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