(with inputs from Rishikesh Raut)
[Editor’s Note – We might not be able to march during Pride, but we can definitely talk about how to be a good ally to the community on days that commemorate protest and pride.]
Pride parade are seen as the cynosure of queer resistance. While India’s first pride parade was held in Kolkata more that 20 years ago, now they are omnipresent in the country, happening annually in several cities. Pride is redefined every year, even though its roots lie in queer resistance and aim for liberation. Although, the glossy newspaper coverages, witty posters and captivating Instagram feeds might tell you otherwise, it is imperative to realize the roots of this gathering do not lie in a need to celebrate queerness but in the need for human beings to exist without criminalization and persecution. If you are going to debut at a pride parade soon, it is suggested you educate yourself beyond the glamour and the glitter that often it is seen as limited to. Here are a few things to be mindful of as you gear up for your first pride parade.
THE P IN PRIDE IS FOR PRIVACY
Pride is a celebration of identities but not everyone is comfortable sharing this identity elsewhere. Be extremely cautious while taking photos of someone else at pride and even more careful while uploading them. A photo for you might just be the celebration of their pride outfit or their ever so witty poster, it can cause great harm to the subject of the photograph. Not everyone who comes to pride is out and about, and even if they are, not all of them are comfortable with being spotted at such explicitly queer spaces. Such photos can out someone without consent or be viewed by someone that they weren’t intended for. The privacy of other people’s celebration is to be respected.
PASS THE MIC
Allies are welcome to join pride parades and celebrations except for a few events that may be reserved for the community. The space respects your presence but do not expect it to thank you for it. It is essential you educate yourself thoroughly before stepping into this space, understand the reason for these parades, the vast intersectionality they hold, the importance of pronouns etc. Do not hog space that was built by queer individuals for queer narratives. Do not gawk at people, ask intrusive questions or make a queer individual feel uncomfortable in their safe space. It is important to understand straight privilege and cis privilege was built of the labor of queer individuals and be an ally that eases this load.
Being brought up in aggressively heteronormative households, our speech has been framed to be largely exclusionary and demeaning. Inclusivity may or may not come naturally, it is non-negotiable. Before addressing someone, ask them their pronouns for assumptions can be hurtful. Do not dead name trans people at any point and do not pass seemingly harmless comments about anyone’s appearance. Also, refrain from asking any intrusive questions, be it about coming out, SRS or any other doubts you may have. Your curiosity is better suited for the internet or libraries. These nit bits are significant in creating a safer space at pride and also throughout the rest of the year.
BREAK THE CIS-TEM
The first pride parade was held after the Stonewall riots in 1969, after heroic acts by black transwomen and that day has sparked the queer revolution. However, increasingly, pride parades are hogged and owned by narratives of cis gender people, to the extent several parades become trans exclusionary. When pride becomes liberation for cisgender queers, there are still bodies that are not allowed to be proud. Call out any queer friends or allies that create an exclusionary space in pride. Grindr accounts still have bios with ‘no Dalits, no fats, no femmes’ and these problematic slurs extend to the streets. Do not misgender any trans or non-binary folx you see. A very draconian trans bill has been passed and pride must address this. There is no liberation until trans folx are also liberated.
IF A REVOLUTION IS NOT INCLUSIVE, IT’S NOT A REVOLUTION
While pride is to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community all other struggles must be respected. Our country still works under rampant casteism, islamophobia, tribal narratives are sidelined to this day, class divisions deepen every year and pride becomes an important point to understand and give way for these narratives. When you see someone talk about the struggles of a queer person that belongs to other marginalized groups, wait and listen. Be respectful of their stories and educate yourself. Understand queer spaces are still largely comfortable for the upper caste, upper-class queers, and each pride should be an attempt to break this hegemony. The key is to not speak but to listen, to make way for narratives that have been sidelined so that in the coming years, truly everyone is liberated.
QUEER BODIES AREN’T RESEARCH MATERIAL
Queer people spend a huge part of their days, having to explain themselves. Be it educating an ignorant aunty on the metro or more difficult conversations with peers. They do not owe this explanation to anyone, regardless of how many times they are forced to do this. If you are at pride to research, or even just learn, keep in mind, that majority of the people are there to celebrate their identities and not to be interrogated. Do make silent observations, listen when speeches are given and slogans are raised. Ask anyone you are interviewing if they are comfortable in answering, take consent before publishing their answers or names anywhere and do not reduce queer bodies to research material.
THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL
Queer existence, has been political since the very beginning. The governments, the policies can never be divorced from queer existence. Whenever pride is reduced to a merry celebration and nothing beyond that, it threatens the realization of a truly liberated future. Rage must be ubiquitous. Smaller and larger battles come to be recounted at pride, from personal spheres like family acceptance and trauma to larger battles like the Trans Bill being passed, CAA and NRC leaving trans people stateless and more so. Thus, it is essential to prioritize battles that are yet to be fought, to create a space where people can feel safe, and also angry and resilient and hopeful. Conversations at pride shouldn’t be limited to blingy outfits but also serve as a platform to prepare for battles that are yet to be fought. In such spaces, the presence of any corporate sponsored floats, brand names are demeaning, because they are here not to support queers but to get queer support.
Thus, attending a parade is exciting, but it also a step forward in the revolution and it is necessary we prepare for it. As you step into pride this year, do so to feel liberated with queer peers but also make a conscious attempt to extend this liberation to everyone.