QAM 2011 : A Walk To Freedom

January 29th, 2011 was an incredible day on several accounts. (Many of which are not PG-13, so let’s skip those parts.) It was the day of the much-awaited (read: 18 months) Queer Azaadi March – my first ever out and proud march on the streets of Mumbai.

I have to be honest, it was far bigger than I had anticipated. 3,000 people marched the streets for equal rights for those of different sexual orientations and preferences (I am starting to despise the term LGBT community but more on that later). There were speeches, bands, dances, posters, painted T-shirts and the vibe was infectious. Mystique and I danced on the streets, whatever little ghaati dance we could manage.

Photography by Karishma Rajani and Shalaka Pai

You must have read me complain about the lack of women at all LGBT events and I am mincing my words as I type this because there were so many more women this time. I was stumped! There were plenty of new faces, some of which I hope to see more often.

There were so many passers-by and bystanders, I couldn’t help but wonder what they thought was happening. I wondered if they knew, most of them, what the procession was about. I wonder if regional news mediums ever cover queer events and if any of those coverages are positive. Before the march many said that there is no point any more to have a Queer Azaadi March because equal rights have already been granted. How short-sighted are these people? At least 90% of our population does not completely understand what homosexuality or bisexuality means (leave alone any other orientation). They say we have been given equal rights? There is no equality in rape laws. There is no equality in marital laws. There is no equality in adoption laws. There is no equality in separation (divorce) laws. They think just because our sexual orientation has been ‘decriminalised’ we must feel grateful and be obliged? Shame on them.

We have come a long way, no doubt about that but there is still a long way to go. Fortunately for us, the only way is uphill. For that I was happy and for that there was reason to celebrate.

I was so happy that I even had a mug of Beer (barely my second drink of the year. Yes, shame on me and all that) and I was actually able to make conversation with some women which never happens at any of the parties because the music is too loud and no one really wants to talk.

Un(fortunately?) I was too tired to go to the after-party at Karma and I don’t exactly regret it because the day was perfect as it was and I was not quite in the mood to be a boozard and dance. But we made it to Cafe Ideal and it was taken over by us. 😀 There were SO many people that the Cafe had to pull down the shutters upfront to stop more people from getting in. There was beer-ing, dancing on tables, talking, item numbers & a smile on every face.

When I went home my legs were on the verge of falling off and I slept through most of next day because I was dog-tired but it was all absolutely worth it. I want to attend marches in different cities over the country and at some point, over the world.

Next Up: Kashish Queer Film Festival in April 2011, tentatively. (One of the few things I have to look forward to this summer.)

What I want for QAM 2012:

* At least 6,000 marchers.

* An out and proud gay celebrity to flag off the QAM instead of Celina Jaitley.

* Even more women.

* Bigger events through Pride Week.

* More LGBT musicians.

[*Editor’s Note : Previously published on The Pernicious Diaries]

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