When Delhi Queer Pride (DQP) started out, nine years ago, in 2008, it was a small celebration of diversity in the face of incredible odds, created by the presence of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. And over the years, if the law is a symbol of violent prejudice against the queer community, then Pride has become a symbol of political resistance. As also a place of camaraderie, community, friendship and love.
The Pride of today has ballooned into a multifaceted celebration, spanning the whole month of November. And every year a voluntary Pride committee meets to organize the march and all the events that lead up to it.
In Delhi, Pride Month kicked off with a Fundraiser on November 5. A popular lounge was all booked for the night, and the dance floor was anyone’s for the taking. Long time Pride-goer and Delhi-based artist Ipshita came to the fundraiser for the first time, after hearing about it through word of mouth. She said: “It was the perfect excuse to meet friends from the community I rarely get to see offline, as well as to bump into new faces.”
She found it easier to make conversation there (as opposed to at Pride where you’re marching and singing and sloganeering) and looks forward to fundraisers that involve and encourage local talent.
Following this was the queer community’s day in the sun on Nov. 20. The Pride Picnic traditionally happens on the Sunday before the March, as folks gather at the Bada Gumbad, inside Delhi’s famed Lodi Gardens. Pride organizers bring the cardboard sheets, paints and markers, and everyone else brings their enthusiasm and creativity, and this year saw a great turn out. Tariq, a software engineer from Delhi, said “the best part was the cross pollination of ideas amongst us as we discussed what we wanted the posters to say, and the fact that people from all over the spectrum ideated over intersectional politics and policy.”
The Picnic also coincided with Transgender Day of Remembrance. While many of the names were read with a heavy heart, activists Karthik Bittu and Gautam Bhan reminded the gathering to think of the day as one where we are all rejoined by trans friends and family who are no longer with us.
In between these events were the ‘LBT parties’ – specifically for queer women, trans men and trans*masculine folks. Invitations were sent privately via email and WhatsApp, and the party took the form of a potluck dinner, hosted at the home of someone from the community. It’s no secret that most queer spaces continue to be dominated by men, even if only in terms of numbers. So to have women-centred events like this has been an important way of challenging gender-based hierarchies in the community, as well as building solidarity and friendship between queer women.
“What I liked most about these events was being around the fam – SO many queers in one place has always been such a high!” So says Nick, “coder extraordinaire” and non-binary transboy, who has been attending Pride events for six years, and compares Pride to Diwali or Christmas for queer people. For him, “hanging out with friends and making really bad puns and annoying people” makes for a great time. And the Open Mic Night on Nov. 25 proved to be just that.
Folks gathered in the fairy-lights-strewn lawns of Max Mueller Bhavan for an evening of solo singing acts, an amazing hula-hoop dance routine, a queer rendition of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and more, while a constant stream of hot snacks, chai and coffee were being served at the venue. This year’s programme also included a performance by members of Indian Aces, an up-and-coming asexuality collective.
Nishtha, a young working professional who identifies as bisexual, called it “an evening of such diverse, badass queer performances.” She went on to say this “warm celebration of non-normative desires and bodies in all their glory shows how much more inclusive and beautiful this year’s parade will be!”
At DQP events, the objective is to have fun and be yourself. But you never lose sight of what it means to have a community and draw strength from it, and it’s always something to look forward to.
Recalling the first Pride event he went to after coming out, Nick said “I can still taste the euphoria and sense of freedom on my tongue. It’s important now, for us to come to these events and support them, support the community. Not just for ourselves but also for those still discovering themselves.”
We at Cake too have been celebrating Pride Month in our own way and will most definitely be joining the beautiful march. Hope to see you there!
While the Pride march will be over on Nov. 27, 2016, this ‘Queer Season’ will continue into the first week of December, with Queer Conversations and Closing Night.