Over a thousand participants. 300 masks. And less than 50 who wore one!
The Queer Pride Parade, held in the Capital on Sunday, was all about coming out — of the closet and from behind the masks.
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community walked from Barakhamba Road to Jantar Mantar to celebrate and stand up for diverse sexual orientations. The slogans, placards and rainbow flags were reminiscent of the last two annual editions of the parade, but there was one thing that distinguished the march this year — a much larger number of participants walked without masks.
“A lot of my friends and I chose not to wear masks at the march. The situation in the Capital has improved a lot, and the parade definitely gave hope to many to disclose their identities,” says Punit Saluja, a luxury consultant.
“A lot of people took the masks that were being distributed, but decided not to wear them when they saw how cool and supportive everyone was,” says Nishi Singh, 19.
Support from ‘straight’ people was one of the main reasons for the change, say activists. “Some of our friends chose not to wear masks, in large part because of participation from straight allies. Taking part no longer identifies a person as gay, but as standing for basic equality,” says Nitin Rao, co-founder of the Delhi-based LGBT India Foundation. “This points to a great opportunity to engage straight students and employees across the country as visible advocates of change.”
Nepalese politician Sunil Babu Pant was one of those who chose to march without a mask. “It was really commendable that even a Nepalase member of parliament came to show his support in Delhi. Gay or not, Indian politicians and stars should take cue and stand up for equal rights for all,” says Saluja. Families too, came out in full force. “Of the participants, 30% were fresh faces. There was even an entourage of senior police officers who were very polite and encouraging,” says Mohnish Malhotra, one of the organisers.
‘Where was the need for a mask?’
Subhashish Mandal, a 37-year-old design professional who marched without a wearing mask at the Queer Pride Parade in Delhi on Sunday, shares his experience
“It’s after very long that I attended a pride parade in the Capital, and I just didn’t feel the need to wear a mask! I recently returned to Delhi from Bahrain after six years, and it was a pleasure to see the change in the scene. My family was there, as well. My mother can't walk much and so they didn't join the march, but they were around.
Till just a few years back, the movement was about activism and angst; today, it’s about celebration and social bonding. I was amazed at how youngsters and straight people thronged the parade in large numbers. No one was ‘covering up’ or evading the cameras — most of the masks had come off. I’ve never seen Delhi this open about sexual differences!”