Pune’s First Pride March

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Gay Pride march in Pune

Saurav Chatterjee was among those who took part in Pune’s first pride march and shares his experience of how people marched keeping in mind the cultural ethos

Background:

Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra experienced its first ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) pride march on Sunday (11th December,2011) morning.  This Pride March was a “PRIDE MARCH” in true essence and it was a lot different from the parades that we see in the Indian metro cities and abroad.

It was organized by Samapathik Trust – A men’s sexual health organization. Bindu Madhav Khire, the president of Samapathik Trust was the one to take the initiative to organize the Pride March keeping in mind the conservative nature of the majority of Pune’s residents.

 The Pride Parade:

The Parade was organized in the old city area of Pune, it was flagged off by Dr. D. K. Shirole, former president of the Pune Psychiatrist Association and was led by Darshana Vyas. Doctors, Lawyers, and friends of LGBT people also attended the pride parade. There were around 100 odd members for the parade among which there were around 50 LGBT members and an equal number of friends of LGBT community.

The key factors that made the parade so different are:

  1. No Masks & Painted Faces:  This showed how confident we were about “Being Ourselves!” This made a huge difference because when I had eye contacts with onlookers they had a supportive smile… which is difficult to achieve if they can’t see your face! People don’t bother to give smiles to “hidden faces”. So this way they knew “I’m Gay” and “I’m exactly the way they are.”
  2. No Skin Show: Keeping in mind the cultural ethos of Pune we didn’t want to grab eyeballs at the cost of “skin show”. Not even a single person in the parade was “differently” dressed. As Bindu Madhav Khire said, “Our struggle is for social acceptance and not for people to treat us differently. Moreover, we avoided any friction as we want to repeat such events frequently.” Most of the paraders were in traditional Marathi attire- dhotis, kurtas were trending! Thus the Gay Pride & HIV awareness march was like any other cultural rally.

Being the first gay pride parade we had to keep in mind that if this parade creates unwanted disturbances, then it would

Marchers in Pune's first gay pride march

surely be the first and last parade!

There were several members from Mumbai, for them this parade was a less colorful affair but for a start it was surely impressive.  The attendance of people would have been much higher than what it was because most of the people were unaware of this pride march, even though 100 members is not at all bad for this first time initiative in the conservative Pune city.

We raised several slogans for LGBT rights and HIV Awareness and customized it for our city. The few popular ones  which grabbed attention of maximum onlookers were :

  • “Sadda Haq – Aithe Rakh” (Our Right- Keep it Here).
  • I Am Gay & That’s OK!
  •  “कंडोम वापरा – HIV  टाळा “ (Condom Wapra- HIV Tala: meaning- Use Condom – Avoid HIV)
  • आहे हे असं आहे !  (Ahe he Asa Ahe: meaning- It is the way it is!)
  • He He, Ho Ho – Homophobia Has to Go
  • Cure Homophobia

Among the organizations that made it successful were Samapathik Trust, Pathfinder International, key members of Gay Bombay and everyone who were present there to mark a difference.