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Why march? To support, encourage and celebrate, says Mumbai

Do you believe in equal rights? Do you believe in love? Then it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, bi or ambivalent, you have a place in the pride march.

mumbai Updated: Feb 07, 2018 13:47 IST
Jayati Bhola
Jayati Bhola
Hindustan Times
LGBTQI,Pride March,Queer Azaadi
Last year’s march in Mumbai drew 14,000 people - gay, straight and from across the spectrum of sexual identity. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

“We will keep marching until we get our rights, and will continue even after that,” says social rights activist, Harish Iyer, ahead of the 10th annual Queer Azaadi March. It is organised by Queer Azaadi Mumbai, a collective of individuals and organisations who advocate for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex community (LGBTQI). The march will take place today and kick off from August Kranti Maidan at 3pm.

This year’s message is #377QuitIndia. “It’s the 75th year of the Quit India movement, and we’re asking for the colonial law [Section 377, which criminalises homosexual sex as unnatural] to be repealed,” Iyer says. Last year’s march saw a crowd of 14,000 supporters. Here’s what makes some of them do it.

I’m giving out hugs and support

Arul Kacker, 23, business analyst, Powai

“This is my first time at the march. I’m going because I believe many marginalised groups in India don’t have visible solidarity. I’m showing up to add to the crowd and be there, in person. I’m expecting comfort, freedom and hope. I’ll be there to give and get hugs, and get inspired by the people on the street.”

I’m marching for my son, and other children

Neelam Jethwani, 58, businesswoman, Prabhadevi

“My son came out in 2008. We accepted him but it did take us some time to fully come to terms with it. In the ten years, this is my third march. My gay son, who lives with his partner in Boston, told me about it in 2012. They asked if I’d like to attend and the entire family went, including my younger son and our Golden Retriever, Champion.

At last year’s pride, I didn’t see too many parents. If parents won’t go, who will support our kids? They have the right to happiness. I’ll march with Sweekar, a group for parents of the LGBTQ community. So I’ll be there, supporting my child and other children. In a sense, I’ve become everyone’s aunty and mother.”

The walk helped me support a friend

Fedora Fernandes, 27, baker at Gaylord, Churchgate

“I have been going since 2014, and I go simply to create awareness. The more you attend events like these, walk with the community, see the people, and learn how they are discriminated against the more you understand what’s happening. It’s not even a protest. It’s a friendly march.

In our first year, we were underprepared – everything was so colourful and fun, people chatting all the way. So next time, I took a nice rainbow scarf and hats. Later, when a dear friend came out, I asked him to come for the march with me. He was really shy, but it was exciting to see him there. And he had me with him, so he didn’t feel out of place.”

This year, my mom is joining me

Debendra Nath, 26, digital marketing manager at a pharmaceutical firm, Thane

“This is my fourth march but it’s extra special. I will be walking with my mother Arundhati Sanyal and my partner Ankit Andurlekar. The last year was very eventful. I’m a core member of Yaariyan (the youth initiative of The Humsafar Trust), a member of the Rainbow Voices LGBT choir and was the second runner-up for Mr Gay World India. I will be walking with members of all these organisations, my mother and my partner as they have helped me create awareness about the queer issues.

Being with my mother, and walking with her, means the world to me. India is at a pivotal point with respect to Section 377. I hope we are able to create more awareness and acceptance this year.”

I’m here for my community

Durga Gawde, 25, sculptor, educator and activist, Bangalore

“I am a genderfluid person, my gender identity changes constantly, so sometimes I feel like a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes both at the same time or neither. My sexual identity is pansexual. I’m marching because I feel the need to fight for my rights rather than stay silent. My family has been supportive but it is difficult for them to fight with their own understanding is social norms. Since I came out, almost every conversation leads back to my identity, does a straight cis-gender person have to deal with that? So why should I have to? There’s much suspicion about sexuality. People are scared of what they don’t understand. I’m coming from Bangalore for this march, even though I’ve grown up in Mumbai, to say it’s okay to be me.”

(An earlier version of this story erroneously identified Durga Gawde as transsexual. We sincerely regret the error.)

First Published: Feb 02, 2018 22:57 IST