Traffic came to a stop on a Saturday afternoon as a sea of colour and mirth marched through Grant Road. The QAM (Queer Azadi Mumbai) Pride March 2017 was as colourful as ever, and appeared to be bigger than ever before.
There were men in heels, women in dhotis, dogs in rainbow outfits (lesbian dogs, we were told). Massive flags floated down, dhols played, and placards demanded equality for the LGBT community.
As this colourful army walked, windows facing the road opened, car windows rolled down, and cellphones were fished out. “What’s going on?” “Why are they marching?” some curious bystanders asked.
We opened a window of sorts as well. With a live Facebook video. This was a vociferous one, as social media always is. The comments saw criticism and the usual “this isn’t natural” line of thought. But there was support and encouragement in equal measure.
Since the wary see the community as a mass of people “different” from themselves, we decided to break the wall and dive in. To put faces to the crowd. We asked five people at the Mumbai Pride the same questions: “Why are you marching?” “What do you think this will achieve?”
Here are the answers, in full, in their own words:
“We aren’t going to go away”
With movements like the Pride March, the main aim is to create awareness. To ensure that everyone knows we aren’t just a small minority. That we are here, we are present. And that we don’t hide behind closets.
The idea is also to show the diversity that exists within ourselves, within the LGBT community. And to prove that we come from all different classes, from different states, and different parts of the world.
We aren’t going to just go away. In fact, we are only going to get louder and louder every year. The more the government suppresses our rights, the louder we will get, the louder we will shout. We will just keep making that much more noise.
- Dhruv Ambegaokar, 25, Doctor, Sion
“We’re not a minuscule minority”
This is my second Pride in Mumbai. I’ve come from Delhi to attend it. And it’s incredible to see how we’ve grown in numbers. Which just goes to show that we’re not a minuscule minority. And we are here to celebrate ourselves, be proud of ourselves, and we’re not ashamed of who we are. We are protesting for getting rid of Section 377. We want an amendment in it as soon as possible. It’s been hanging for so long.
It’s so sad that we haven’t been able to talk about marriage equality, and that we call ourselves a democracy. So, I hope that with these Prides, we come out more in the open, and celebrate ourselves.
-Anwesh Kumar Sahoo, 21, Mr Gay World India, 2016, and engineering student, IIIT, Delhi
“I can’t tell my mom I’m here”
This is my first Pride March. I grew up in Delhi. But when I moved to Mumbai, I saw people coming out. I felt that, in Delhi, such a community is not really accepted. But I felt Mumbai was a quite a bit ahead than the rest of India in being accepting.
Some of my friends are bisexual, or gay. They are here, also participating in this march. And I really wanted to support them. Plus, my college is really supportive of LGBT causes.
I have spoken to my parents about LGBT issues. They’re not really supportive of it. But they are OK with me supporting it. I can’t really tell me mom that I’m here right now. But my sister is supportive. I don’t know what marches like these will achieve for us five years from now. But I guess…we’ll get it legalised or something… I don’t know.
-Janvi Jha, 17, Student, First Year, Bachelor of Arts
“I don’t care about the laws”
I came for the march from Pune. Marches like these show the government that we are a huge community, that we are all together, and that we won’t stop. I don’t care about the laws. We will break the laws. We have the support of our families, we have all our friends by us. And we don’t care.
-Ashish Chopra, 22, Recruiter, Wipro, Pune
“Gay Pride needs to be remembered as a protest”
I live in London, but I’m originally from Belgium. I came here with my [LGBT] choir, called The Pink Singers, from London. About 40 of us came here to sing with the local choir, called the Rainbow Voices Mumbai. We organized a joint concert yesterday, and we are marching here together to advance the LGBT rights.
Hopefully, with the visibility, and the gathering of musicians, and our love for music, we can achieve a lot to change people’s minds around what LGBT people are, what they represent, and why they should have equal rights along with everyone.
In London, the Pride marches have come a long way. But the early marches there were similar to ones here. But the marches there are definitely much bigger. But this is a real march. This is a protest, and not a party. And it’s really important that gay pride continues to be remembered as a protest march first and foremost.
-Jerome de Henau, 38, Senior Lecturer, Economics, The Open University, London