It was a sea of masked faces and rainbow coloured scarves, as the LGBT community took to the streets to commemorate the second anniversary of Delhi High Court's historic judgment of decriminalising homosexuality.
On July 2nd, 2009, Delhi high court, restored dignity and rights to LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex) people in India by amending Section 377 to decriminalize adult consensual same-sex activity in private.
While the community got legal freedom, the society is yet to accept them as 'normal'. While the participants of gay pride parade were in jubilant mood, they demanded for more tolerance and sensitivity from society. At the highly charged event, hundreds of queer youngsters and gay supporters came dressed up, shouted slogans, shared experiences and mingled with the like minded.
Inspired by the New York's legalisation of gay marriage, many showed hope for a similar support by the Indian government, "We want it(legislation of gay marriage) to happen in India. Now, we can roam around, hold hands here, but there's still a question mark. India copies everything from the West be it a pen or a car, then why not copy the New York judgment? asks Rupali Bhardwaj, a participant.Rituparna Bora, a feminist and queer rights supporter, revealed that Indian gay activist groups are rejoicing about the New York legalization of gay marriage but want a more extended discourse for gays in India, "I've never supported marriage, because when we say gay or lesbian marriage, we only give rights to people in coupledom, not the ones who're single. I demand extensions of right to gay people who live with family, friends and partners."
With a tagline saying sexuality from scratch, Queer Campus, a Delhi based independent queer student and youth collective marked its presence by distributing pamphlets. A few youngsters from the group took to stage to share personal stories. Nayan, a member said, "Today, I can stand in front of you and say I'm gay, deal with it, as he dramatically took off his mask amidst a loud cheer from the crowd.
Echoed Rohit* a member of Queer Campus, said "I now have the courage to be myself. I will be coming out to my family soon, and later this year I hope to come out to the whole world." He added that Queer Campus had really helped him, and provides a space to discuss anything and everything, not just LGTB issues.
As the Delhi Drum Circle set everybody in the mood for some fun, some young transgender let their hair down and grooved onstage in full abandon.
Aditi Chaturvedi, who recited a moving poem by Langston Hughes about freedom, revealed, "A lot has changed since last year, now you actually have people coming up on stage and openly saying 'I'm gay!' which would have been unthinkable a few years ago," adding that "perceptions still need to change, and even the media has to stop being so homophobic."
Amidst the euphoric mood, some were more realistic about their expectations from the community. Rupesh, who works with Mitra(CBO), voiced his reservations, "The whole idea of today's celebration is to give people a clear idea that we are there and we have more expectations from the supreme court. Though New York has legalized gay marriage, here we're trying to do things step by step. Already there's so much stigma for gay people, I agree that people know and understand more about homosexuality but by coming out, same sex marriage and adoption are issues, which still need to be addressed.
Talking about the change since the last year, he said, "There's a considerable change since the 2009 judgment. Many NGO's are working for human rights and gay rights. We feel more empowered and bold enough to file complaints. Earlier police use to harass gay couples, rape them and we couldn't report these cases, now the 377 judgment clearly gives sexual freedom to consensual adults, now we feel bold enough to file reports against harassment. We feel more confident about bringing the private to public. Thankfully, our portrayal in serials, movies, and public platforms is changing."
While the event saw hundreds chanting slogans and demanding for a change in society's mindset, a few LGBT participants were spotted touching up their make-up for the post event party.