Mumbai’s LGBTQIA+ pride parade is back after four-year gap | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Mumbai’s LGBTQIA+ pride parade is back after four-year gap

BySabah Virani
Feb 02, 2024 07:32 AM IST

The last pride march was held in the city in early 2019 in which more than 8,000 persons from across India participated. Difficulty in obtaining police permissions and the pandemic put the march on pause in the following years

Mumbai: After a hiatus of four years, the city’s official LGBTQIA+ pride parade is back, this time, the organisers say, it will be bigger than the previous ones. With all permissions in place, the march will commence from August Kranti Maidan in Tardeo at 3pm this Saturday. It will pass through Nana Chowk, Lamington Road, Opera House, Kennedy Bridge and will culminate at the starting point.

Mumbai, India - February 2, 2019: People march in a gay pride parade from Augest kranti maidan to Girgaon chowpatty in Mumbai, India, on Saturday, February 2, 2019. (Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times) (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India - February 2, 2019: People march in a gay pride parade from Augest kranti maidan to Girgaon chowpatty in Mumbai, India, on Saturday, February 2, 2019. (Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times) (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

The last pride march was held in the city in early 2019 in which more than 8,000 persons from across India participated. Difficulty in obtaining police permissions and the pandemic put the march on pause in the following years. But this time, the community was determined to not let anything stop them. For starters, the previous umbrella of Queer Azaadi Mumbai (QAM) under which the march was organised was disbanded. In its place, the collective Mumbai Queer Pride was born.

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The city has held annual pride marches since 2005, but the first official Queer Azaadi March was held on August 16, 2008. The march was a protest against Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalised gay and lesbian sex.

“We’ve felt left out all these years, watching other cities celebrate pride in all its glory,” said Winnie Chopra, who heads Gay Gaze Bombay along with Gurleen Arora. “It was especially sad because I believe the queer scene in Mumbai is among the best in the country. A lot of younger voices are entering the space after the partial reading down of Section 377. But now we’re back, and the march is going to be big.” The planning started as early as July, said Ashish Pandya, part of the Mumbai Queer Collective. The group would meet on one to two Saturdays every month, the frequency increasing as the big day crept closer, over tea and snacks or a potluck lunch at The Humsafar Trust’s office in Santacruz. An open collective, it has gradually gained a strength of around 50 individuals and organisations. And it had a lot on its roster. Leading up to the pride march, a host of 18 events were held collectively in the month of January. These included sports tournaments, like the QGames, a beach game tournament held on Juhu beach, and the Gulabi Mela, a fair held with queer artists, entrepreneurs and activities.

“The aim of the events is to increase the visibility of the community to spark awareness and discussion and to foster safe spaces for the community,” said Sudhanshu Latad, advocacy manager for The Humsafar trust and a part of its youth initiative, Yaariyan. “When onlookers see games and fun events taking place in public spaces, like the annual flashmob this time on Carter Road, and see our rainbow flags, they join in and also strike up a conversation.”

The events in close spaces, on the other hand, give the queer community a space to exist freely. “We had a sort of a matchmaking set up, where we gave people different coloured bands on if they were open to be approached. When dating apps like Grindr can turn out to be unsafe with cases of fraud increasing, these spaces are precious,” said Latad.

The fair also offered free entry to those who got tested for HIV, as well as had several doctors on site for people to approach and follow up with after.

“Our aim this time has been to foster a sense of intersectionality and involve queer people from different strata, whether that be trans people, the disabled, those over 50 and the young,” said Latad. To honour their history, three of the older members from the community, Winnie, Arora and Harish Iyer of the Humsafar Trust, took out a Queer History Walk. “We started at Garima Greh in Goregaon, one of the oldest safe spaces of trans people in Mumbai when they get kicked out of their homes or are in need of help for shelter and food,” said Winnie. “Then we took the train, heading to Kamathipura to talk with one of the oldest sex workers there, who over 40 years ago would be the recipient of male and female clients.”

Along the way, they shared stories of their journeys through queerness in the city; of how the movement grew, their trysts through the shady spots, their struggles. “We spoke of the older queer organisations in the city that are not known as much, and the culture of queerness that used to exist when it was far more dangerous to be gay,” said Iyer. “The queer history of Bombay has grown with me. There is far more openness now, but I have always felt the city has been open to people who are different, like me. I’ve kissed someone on the rocks of Bandstand in between other straight couples, and nothing has happened. Even when I’ve been attacked, random strangers have come to my help.”

They then headed to the Gulabi Mela, to join the party. The pride march too will be followed by two afterparties. “With the pride march, we not only want to demand our rights to exist and have equal rights as others, but we also want to claim the streets and be visible: show people we exist, and we are in huge numbers, and we demand space within the city and all its institutions.”

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