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How NOT To Organise A Pride Parade: A List (With Some Advice Thrown In)

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By Kokila Bhattacharya for The YP Foundation:

During LGBTQ awareness sessions in college, I was asked, “Bhopal mein Pride kyun nahi hua?” So, a group of us took on the mission! During that process, we learnt a lot, and we thougth we should share it with everyone! So, here’s some gyaan.

1: Don’t Make Random Facebook Events

Too often people create these events with an imaginary date and time! It’s a big no. Also, don’t make a pride poster for said mythical event!

Plan your Pride March on a date that is suitable for your city. We decided on the evening of May 17 (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) for Bhopal Pride to ensure that we would have clear skies and easy traffic.

Choose your partners carefully. Citizen’s Action Network (Bhopal CAN) was initiated to fight corporate crime and is not an NGO. We strategically did not want to involve a registered entity for testing waters as many volunteers have been threatened before. It is our safe space and blanket to put forward our ideas without attaching them to faces.

2: Don’t Use Your BFF’s Grindr To Lure People

Relying on queer dating apps is not a good idea. Avoid making fake profiles and pursuing people till they turn up for a date with you, just so that you can coax them into helping organise a Pride Parade.

Use technology, apps and meet-up groups to plan small meetings. In Bhopal, a bunch of wise  folks did so and created Harmless Hugs on MySpace to talk about their issues and find support in each other.

3: Don’t Hover About The City Looking For Queer People

Mobilise, organise, and get people together! If yours is a smaller city and communities don’t gather easily, travel and meet new people and groups. Hear them out and make them feel like there are more people involved. Word of mouth works wonders in smaller circuits, and physical meetings offer more faith than telephonic conversations. Bhopal Pride was essentially initiated by straight allies till we found many, many beautiful queer people to join us and take on the mantle!

4: Don’t Bicker And Dominate Each Other

Collaborations are essential for a successful Pride Parade. Find activists, social workers, communities, professors and influencers who believe in equal rights. Any sane person, it is safe to assume, would believe in equal rights for the LGBTQIA community, and would help you spread the word. If possible, get many diverse people to the meeting to brainstorm prospective problems and solutions. Once a core team has been established chalk out a draft of your demands or agenda.

Most importantly, listen. Our preconceptions were proven wrong when we met local groups of trans people and Hijras at gharanas. Their issues, motivation, and demands were very different  from what we were assuming them to be. Chances are that your status, background, or life may cause you to make immature judgements. For example not many people use “LGBT” to refer to alternate sexualities—some prefer using abbreviations for specific groups like MSM (men who have sex with men). Remember that all communities, geographies, and cultures are different and do what’s best for the ones you are working for.

Based on this, we decided that the Pride Parade would not protest against Section 377, since at that point, its implications were not fully understood. Sexual rights and privacy rights were a bigger priority for us. Based on this understanding, we drafted a manifesto for Bhopal Pride, in collaboration with Centre for Social Justice.

5: Don’t Teach Kids Inappropriate Things

We invested a lot of our time in outreach and advocacy in schools and colleges. Along with members of local trans groups, we visited many institutions. While it is difficult to dismantle regressive authoritarians views, acknowledging their existence and influence helps us decide what language we should use and the sequence in which we should provide information. There was a great need for this, since these were the assumptions young students had.

“…but our professor said that porn makes people gay.” 

…but ‘gay’ people wear sarees and ask for money at traffic signals, why should we support them?

If we come to the Pride, our parents will think we are homosexual.

“What body parts do Hijras have?”

Sometimes an easier way is to start is with the question “What is the difference between sex, gender and sexuality?

These are the things one shouldn’t do, but that brings us to what one should do instead. And these are:

1: Bombard The Commons

While publicising the parade use every avenue you can. Plan many small build-up events before the Pride.

For Bhopal, we made a schedule, which included several events. In collaboration with Alliance Francaise, we had an art and photography exhibition featuring the work of a number of local artists. Then we worked with Kaafila and ANSH Happiness Society for a street play at DB Mall. There was also a panel discussion (in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya) and a film screening, with the help of Humsafar Trust. Finally, Dylogg Coworking (the organisation I co-founded) partnered with Bhopal Pride for an open mic night.

“Magar paise kahan se ayenge (But where will the money come from)?” you ask.

To fund Bhopal Pride Week, we chose to avoid approaching big businesses and opted to raise money through crowdfunding instead. We are very very grateful to each person who contributed to our campaign.

(Psst…We are still broke.)

2: Take Pangas With The ‘Sanskaar‘ Gatekeepers

You will confront many self-proclaimed ‘custodians’ of religion. Dealing with them is overwhelmingly exhausting and will leave you with scars. However, buck up and get back in the arena, and fight irrationality with reason, and negative emotions with positive ones. Remember, homophobia is conditioned. Carry handy proof when logic is questioned, such as:

“Homosexual behaviour is natural in all species.” “Ancient stories and art have depicted same-sex intercourse.” “Sex is not unnatural.”

Repeat these mantras as and when required.

3: Gatecrash Your Own Party

The party, I assure you, would’ve started without you. However, there should be unanimous clarity on the starting point and ending point of the march, post-march plans, slogans, and banners. Make sure you have amenities, security, documentation help, scream-the-slogans volunteers and pacifiers.

Also let’s make sure we are not speaking for someone else, or making assumptions about their identity.

Finally, get lots of masks and props for people who aren’t ready to come out as yet.

Pride is for everyone. Therefore, intersectionality and inclusivity is key.

4: Keep serving These Truth Meals

And there you go. A few simple Dos and Don’ts to follow!

Pride may or may not be a one-time event. Our efforts definitely cannot and should not end there. We must consistently push privileged ignorant people to open their eyes. This one was a hard pill to swallow for Bhopal, but we were not guilty about serving it.

In celebration of Pride Month, The YP Foundation is running an online campaign to spark conversations around issues specific to queer youth. We seek to explore the importance of the queer movement in India and the intricacies of queer organising. It also looks at the different ways in which the queer movement in India is forging alliances with other movements, through the active engagement and involvement of young queer people. This campaign is a part of a larger international campaign hosted by CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality. To submit your stories, poems, articles and artwork, send them to info@theypfoundation.org by 20th June, 2018.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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