This was my first pride, if I were to discount the previous two, where I participated as an observer. Sitting at the steps of Town Hall, Bangalore where the pride culminates, I was always there as an outsider, taking notes, vying for quotes from the ‘who’s who’ of the community.
But this pride was different. I actually walked the pride. And I felt part of the community. I am proud to be part of the community. I’m the A in the LGBTIQA, as per the latest edition to the acronym. And that A can mean different things to different people – it stands for Asexual, Ally or Advocate. You can try to guess which one I belong to. But more importantly, on November 24, 2013, I was part of the march.
I walked among complete strangers and chatted with them, complimented some on their dresses, shoes or their banners. Mostly, walking the pride for me meant claiming the city space as mine. My 18-year-old sister, who walked alongside, made that observation— “It’s the safest I have felt in years.”
The reason I feel the need to jot down my feelings is the tragic news of the 21-year-old who committed suicide that very night after walking the pride. The pride may be about loudness, garish over-the-top dressing or the dancing with a ‘devil-may-care-attitude’. But, that’s just one aspect of the pride. There are other reasons why prides are walked every year. Here are reasons to walk:
It is a community we cannot ignore anymore. We are there, we exist, we are your friends, your family or distant relative, your co-worker, your neighbour. We are there to let you know that we are part of the ‘normal’ you keep throwing around. We are an integral part of that social fabric, that society you claim we fear. And that’s why it is important for us to claim our space in the society.
Prides are about being unbiased, about non-discrimination at every level.Therefore, we welcome all to walk with us. The premise being simple – we want a social order that does not discriminate on gender, class, religion, sex, caste, creed and profession. So, we will walk alongside the sex-workers who have an equal right to existence as any of us. (This is in response to those who felt that it was wrong for a pride march to begin from a red-light area—case in point—the Pune Pride March that started and ended in Budhwar Peth, an old part of town and with a high population of sex-workers). The first step is to internalise that change. Stop the discrimination that you may carry forward.
Claim the city
Almost every city is becoming more and more demarcated. You can’t sit in parks or take a nap or meet your loved one, you cannot just sit and be. Public spaces are disappearing faster than we realise and the irony is we aren’t even questioning the disappearance. We prefer to hang out at coffee shops or eating joints or pubs, never realising that “hanging out” shouldn’t always mean spending money. Therefore, an event like the pride march is of that much greater significance. We can claim the city as ours even if it only means for a couple of hours.
This pride, I witnessed, and participated in all this. We claimed the city as our own. The more we get out on the streets, the more connected we will be to it. We will begin to notice and question the inferior city planning, we may even take notice of how dangerous it could be for an individual to cross the street.
That is the hope I have that we will claim our cities in a manner where walking is not a once-a-year activity but something we opt for, because it is beautiful to walk. Each street has a story, we just need to hear it, and we can’t do that sitting in our closed AC vehicles.
Talk to strangers
I am not your average extrovert, I take time to even chat with colleagues in a new office, so really, when I say I could do it, you need to realise that the pride wasn’t about who knew whom. It welcomed anyone who’d care to walk the distance, however short the distance may be. When was the last time you started a conversation with a complete stranger? A conversation that didn’t need to go anywhere, it was just a simple exchange of hellos with heartfelt smiles, a quick question about where that pretty pink dress was bought from… The pride march presents that opportunity to connect with individuals where a glance makes you bond, not technology. This is refreshing in the age of social networks.
And I could keep going, but four is a good number to stop at. I felt the need to write this because this being my first actual pride that I walked, it was also my third time being there amidst a completely different set of people, many I still don’t know, but it was a safe space, I was accepted no-questions asked. Someday our society will be such a place. Someday a youngster wouldn’t be driven to take his own life, just because he didn’t fit the ‘normal’ mould. Someday that change will happen. Until then, we shall walk – with pride.
(This post was originally published in the blog of the author)