Lucknow’s First Queer Pride Breaks Many Barriers

Awadh Queer Pride Parade was held on April 9. Exactly Eighteen years after India held its first Queer Pride Parade in Kolkata (known as Calcutta earlier), the event finally came to Lucknow on Sunday. Sikandarbagh Crossings to Hazartgunj – General Post Office (GPO), a stretch of  approximately 1.5 Km, witnessed more than 300 people, largely from LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) community, along with activists and intellectuals, students and eminent personalities of Lucknow, walk the street.

The first Awadh Queer Pride Parade witnessed a combination of ‘Ganga-Jamni Tehzeeb’ that Lucknow is known for. There were placards about being ‘queer and muslim’, people were celebrating with slogans like ‘Hindu Muslim Sikh Issai, Hetero- Homo Bhai Bhai’ and waving rainbow flags or wearing rainbow colours. Many of them had come from as far away as Mumbai, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Jaipur to show their support.

Picture credit: Yashwinder Singh

Picture credit: Yashwinder Singh

“This was a full-fledged Queer Pride Parade,” said Darvesh Singh Yadvendra, the organiser of the event. “It was being held here for the first time and not only LGBTI but their family members turned out in support. It shows that they are also getting acceptability.”

gay uttar pradesh

Picture credit: Yashwinder Singh

Yadvendra said the parade had two objectives: to celebrate the diversity of sexuality and gender, and to protest the harassment and discrimination faced by LGBTQ community. “There have been cases where people have committed suicides, undergone tortures,” he said. “We have seen discrimination in the family, at the work place and in society.”

Rohan Pujari, ‘Runner Up -Mr Gay World 2017 India’, specially flew down from Mumbai to support the initiative. Pujari said ‘he feels love in the fiza-e-awadh (air of Awadh).’

Rohan Pujari (centre) with Ashok Row Kavi (right) (Picture credit: Yashwinder Singh)

Participants walked holding a 30 feet long Rainbow flag.While some of the participants wore  amazing creative dresses, one came as an angel. Many of them said they did drag for the first time to express themselves freely. A few community members also came in Burkha and some wore masks to protect their identity.

A participant in drag (Picture credit: Yashwinder Singh)

The parade generate quite a curiosity among onlookers, some of whom asked the participants who they were, why they were dancing on the road, and about the colourful clothes they were wearing. A few also took selfies with these wonderful people.

“We started the preparation a whole year ago,” said Yadvendra. He further said “Whosoever is in power, we have to engage with them. We took proper permission [for the parade] and it was given by the present BJP regime. So for us, there is no such issue. We have to engage with them for our cause.

Ashok Row Kavi, gay rights activist and ex-journalist and founder of Humsafar Trust, attended the pride with his team. He said that he is glad to see young people taking lead and events like pride or film festivals will help in mainstreaming the community issues.

The pride march came to an end at GPO, where many community members and activists gave out speeches, appealed to the government to read down discriminatory laws like IPC 377, and provide a life of dignity to LGBT community.

Yashwinder Singh

Yashwinder Singh is a LGBT Rights activist and has been working for the community for the last 12 years. He set up Haryana's first LGBT centre in 2006 and established India's first transgender beauty parlour and training centre in 2009 at Faridabad. He currently manages Humsafar Trust's Delhi office.