Flying the Rainbow Flag: Delhi Queer Pride 2017

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Last Sunday—November 12, 2017—Delhi held its 10th Pride Parade. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as straight allies, came from all over the city to participate in a march to express solidarity.

 

The march started from Barakhamba Road and ended at the Jantar Mantar. Afterwards, there were stage performances of different art forms - the other arm of protest and expression. Pieces of dance and poetry were performed by different members of the LGBTQ+ community.

There was so much positivity in the atmosphere, not just because of the affirmation of queerness but an active celebration of it. There were posters and flags, badges and glitter. There were people dressed to the nines, and people in pyjamas. There were more balloons than you could begin to count. And there were dhols (because it’s not a party if there aren’t dhols). In a circle bound by drummers, several people were dancing like there was no tomorrow. When you’re showing up from a university (near the end of the semester, no less), that kind of overjoyed abandon takes a little getting used to at first.

 

Of course, it was not purely happiness. Pride is a statement, one of not just solidarity but also of defiance. Pride is when an oppressed people take up public space, when a community comes together and refuses to be erased. "अरे, हम क्या चाहें?  roared a man in Hindi from somewhere within the throng (“What do we want?”), and the whole parade reverberated with the demand for freedom. There were posters giving voice to the community’s discontent with the current government, slogans attacking heteronormativity and the infamous Section 377.

An effect of this is also that a lot of headway can get be made when like-minded people, or those with similar visions, get to interact. Anupriya, a student at Ashoka University, not only became friends with several people through Pride but also hopes to further one of her own projects—a support group against sexual harassment—through some of the connections she’s made. For instance, she befriended a transitioning student who is also attempting to reform the gender policy at his own university.

 

Celebration itself can be an act of defiance. In a society where LGBTQ+ people are routinely looked down upon and even abused, Pride is a welcome opportunity for this community to enjoy the same freedom of existing as themselves, out in the open, same as cisgendered, heterosexual people. It’s a space where they are free to express themselves, to be who they are, with no judgement from fellow Pride-goers. As such, even including the element of protest, it was a fundamentally uplifting experience. There was a person offering free hugs. People holding hands and walking in groups and pairs, reconnecting with old friends and cementing new relationships, all of these elements are also integral to the event.

 

A lot of the noteworthy posters have already been covered by various news outlets, but I’ll list a few of our favorites here anyway—Sexuality is not the moon: it doesn’t go through phases; Marry me, Shashi Tharoor; Bi Bi Haters; The closet is for clothes (fabulous, fabulous clothes); Harry Potter taught us that nobody deserves to live in the closet, and a few that are unprintable here.

It was a protest and a party, and then it was over. Too soon the crowd began thinning out, the posters rolled up, masks taken off. But the reassurance remains that it will all happen again next year, that Pride is here to stay, as the old slogan declares: “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Edited by  Devashree Somani

All photographs have been captured by Aayushi Deshpande

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