To Mark Dark Times, Delhi’s Pride Parade Steps Away From Rainbows

On Sunday evening, the heart of the capital was abuzz once more with loud cries of ‘Azadi’ as huge rainbow flags fluttered across Tolstoy Marg.

At the 12th edition of the Delhi Pride Parade, thousands of members of the LGBTQIA+ community walked hand-in-hand from Barakhamba Road to Jantar Mantar, shouting ‘Love is Love’ in unison. A huge banner which read ‘Stop Trans Rights Bill’ led the crowd.

Amidst the rainbows, there were also many who wore black and grey.

“We decided to shed colour this time and wear black to protest the trans rights Bill and the crisis the whole country is currently going through. The Delhi Pride has always been political and it is this time as well… You’ll see a lot of us wearing black,” said Ruth Chaungthu, co-founder of LGBT Nazariya, an independent grassroots alliance formed by the students of Delhi University.

Delhi Pride Parade 2019. Image credit: LiveWire.

This year, the Lok Sabha passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, despite huge criticism from the LGBTQIA+ community. The Bill, as has been repeatedly pointed out, “dehumanises” and further marginalises the trangender community.

According to the Bill, trans people cannot identify as male or female unless they have undergone sex re-assignment surgery. The Bill conflates transgender persons and intersex persons and there is no provision of reservation for them in education and jobs. Sexual assault against  trans person, the Bill says, will only attract a punishment of six months to two years, as compared to life imprisonment for cases of sexual assault against women.

“Why is the trans rights Bill even a thing? As per the Bill, a person has to strip in front of the district magistrate to prove one’s identity. How can someone else decide my gender, my identity?” asked a Delhi-based journalist, who identifies as non-binary.

Many also condemned the clampdown of dissent at Jawaharlal Nehru University and other campuses across the country. “The Pride today is not just about the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s about everyone. Today, it’s the community and tomorrow it could be us. It’s time to stand hand-in-hand with each other,” said a law student from Delhi.

“This is my first Pride Parade and I’m extremely delighted to be here. For the past couple of months, I have been trying to explore my sexuality, coming here makes me feel there are many like me and I am not alone. I have found my community,” said an engineering student from Shiv Nadar University.

Pride Parade Delhi, 2019. Image credit: LiveWire.

Her friends attended the previous Pride in November – the first one after Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was read down. Life after the decriminalisation of homosexuality, they say, has been a bit easier but there’s still a long way to go.

While the police and families, according to some transgender persons, have become more generous over the last year, society at large continues to be regressive.

“The reading down of Section 377 was only the first step.There is a lot that needs to be changed… For instance, a lot of gay people are still not allowed to donate blood because there’s an assumption that they are HIV positive. Where does this assumption come from? We are ready for as many tests, but not for these baseless prejudices,” said an undergraduate engineering student.

In the middle of a ‘Love is Love’ slogan and the loud dhol and dafli beats, a young trans man from Assam held up a poster which read: ‘#Stop NRC’.

“Besides protesting the trans rights Bill, I am also here to protest against NRC (National Register of Citizens). I am sure there are many from the trans community in Assam who have been unable to produce relevant documents to prove their Indian citizenship. Those from the transgender community face more difficulty in fetching official documents in comparison to others,” he said.

According to Guwahati-based journalist Gaurav Das, the NRC is a “double-edged sword” for the community. While one section is excluded for not having proper documents – since most of them are disowned by their families – another section is included but on the lines of gender they no longer identify with.

Other corners of the parade also called out the politics of hate. A bunch of students and working professionals danced to ‘BJP se Azadi’, ‘Brahminvaad se Azadi’ carrying posters saying: “Rainbow over Bhagwa [saffron]”. One member from Pinjra Tod – a woman’s collective against discriminatory hostel rules  – shouted in support of Kashmir where normalcy has yet to be restored 112 days later.

“You see, this fascist government habitually takes decisions without taking into account what people have to say. The trans rights Bill, for instance, was formulated without having any representation from our own community. Similarly, Article 370 in Kashmir was read down without considering the voices of dissent from Kashmir. Pride is, hence, not just about rainbows – it’s much more,” said Kaushal Bodwal, co-ordinator of Dalit Queer Project.

A trans woman dressed in black and rainbow stripes echoed the sentiment. “We are here to protest the injustices inflicted upon different communities. We are here to protest the fascist culture which is going to affect you, me and everyone,” she said.

“Pride is not a party, it’s a resistance.”

Featured image credit: Twitter/@chmnaidu