The unbelievably friendly, welcoming and varied Mumbai queer scene has been a key part of my life here since my arrival in Mumbai two months ago. I have chosen to write about it publicly because on Friday we celebrated one year since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India. Friday’s event was one of those moments when the gay pride that we carry around safely in our hearts for most of the year, tucked away, burgeons out of each and every one of us into one fabulous rainbow-hued thanksgiving to our togetherness and unity.
This year’s event, entitled 365 days without 377, was held at Azad Maidan, and was organized by Queer Azadi Mumbai (QAM), a collective of individuals and representatives from different queer groups in Mumbai. The programme included speeches, a reading of the judgment overruling 377, and a theme show in which members of the trans-community demonstrated that transpeople are also teachers, inspectors, mothers.
The event was brought to a close by a round of clapping which reminded us of both the celebration of victories gained for queer rights, and the progress still to make. Many never lose sight of the long term goals of the queer rights movement. LABIA (Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action), one such group, has been around for 15 years, and they welcomed me with open arms when I got in touch with them upon my arrival in Mumbai.
The autonomous non-funded queer feminist collective meets once a week, operates a phone line and is an important player among Mumbai and even India-wide queer groups. One LABIA meeting in particular was truly magical. We were joined by US vocalist and queer activist Fatima Loren, who, after patiently sitting through the labyrinthine discussion of the July 2 programme, proceeded to fill the intimate space of the apartment with her soul-reaching voice and unlimited performance charisma.
The women’s scene in Mumbai is socially extremely active, and since my arrival, I have attended a theatrical improvisation night put on by the queer woman’s community, a club night predominantly for queer women, and a night out where lesbians take over a local bar. A football game is currently being planned. There is an informal network of queer women who try to keep everyone included by organising events that allow people of all backgrounds, incomes and sexual orientations to attend.
You can get in touch with LABIA on 9833278171, Mon/Wed/Sat 5 to 8 pm, or email