Sitting at the top of my 2014 To-Do list of resolutions was Queer Azaadi March – a series of LGBT events built around the Mumbai Pride Parade. I put it there after the shocking (for the lack of a politically-correct word) verdict passed on 12 December 2013, which not only drove a lot of LGBT friends back into their closets but also made life worse for some. The number of extortion and torture (not to mention rape) cases have gone up since and so has the ridicule from other nations of the world against this landfall judgement !
In Asia, we still suffer from section 377, a remnant of our British Empire’s Victorian values and law… while the UK and other countries have already legalised same-sex marriages. When I lived in Mumbai over a decade ago, I was unsure of who I was. I didn’t know anyone who was LGBT. Forget that, I didn’t even understand sexual orientation. I do now and so going back there to walk shoulder to shoulder with my friends in the fight for equal rights meant a lot to me!
It’s no longer Queer Azaadi March, it is now Queer Azaadi Movement. It’s not a series of events anymore. It is a fire in our collective bellies to stand up for what is long overdue and demand it. Gone are those days of thinking ‘it doesn’t concern me’, ‘why should I bother because my colleagues don’t care anyway’, ‘my parents won’t accept it’, etc. There are two basic questions here, which we need to ask of ourselves. Are we strong enough to stand up for ourselves? Are we strong enough to stand up for thousands of others who are afraid to stand up for themselves? It is no longer a question of whether you should stand up, it is a question of what you can do to push the movement forward !
I spent ten days on that trip attending events, meeting people and exchanging stories, and by the time I reached my second home (I live in Hong Kong now) I was physically exhausted but mentally supercharged. There is so much to do and we are just getting started!
During the post Pride hangover days, I attended the third issue release party for PLUG Magazine. This issue, which is aptly named the Shock Issue for its content, carries an article on Mumbai Pride called March of the Mumbaikars (see page 64-69) ! !
During that time, four of my friends, two same-sex couples, launched a campaign for legal recognition of same-sex couples’ relationships and marriage equality. They have cleverly named it Double Happiness, after a Chinese ornamental design commonly used as a decoration and symbol of marriage. It reads ?? and stands for joy. It was also the 12th anniversary for one of the couples, Abby (Singaporean Chinese) and Betty (French). I am not a big fan of listing who is from where but it gives you an idea of how cosmopolitan the Hong Kong crowd is. Although France now supports marriage equality, Betty cannot legally marry Abby in Hong Kong. And, by the way, section 377’s Singaporean cousin is section 377A in their law. This restricts Abby from marrying Betty in Singapore. Guy (Canadian Chinese) married Henry (Hong Kong Chinese) in 2011 in Canada. Their wedding video is a popular documentary now – Different Path Same Way.
We are all in the same boat. And, one day, arrive we shall!