Pride. What does it mean? To walk on our streets unafraid, if for a moment. To let our fabulousness shine – in our clothes, in our strut, in our dance. To meet the gaze of the passerby, and not flinch, not lower our heads. To see the beauty and strength in each other, and ourselves. To bring our love out into the open air, in all its splendour. To be ourselves, and know that for today, that is enough – that is more than enough.
It was my first queer pride march in India, and it did not disappoint. Having grown up in Bombay, though I now live in New York, this was quite a queer homecoming.
5000 Mumbaikars, Indians from other cities, and people from all over the world, gay and straight, trans and hijra, bisexual and queer, paraded through Nana Chowk on February 1st. It was a sight to behold, no “miniscule minority” as the Supreme Court called us, but rather a fierce contingent determined not to let this legal defeat keep us down.
Last December, in New York, I organized rallies against the reinstatement of Section 377 – the law that criminalizes LGBTQ people in India and exposes them to further social, economic and health vulnerabilities. A relic from the British rule, this type of law unfortunately lives on in so many post-colonial countries, as homophobia continues to be imported and embraced as a nation-defining value. I knew the importance of this moment, what this pride was worth, not just for Indians but for queer people everywhere.
Many masked and unmasked participants danced along the route, to the ever-vigorous dhol, while others caught up with old friends and new. Organizers helped lead everyone in chants against 377. Young activists bravely engaged the gawking crowds, asking them cheeky questions and handing out flyers with more information. Street kids darted in and out of the crowds, collecting pretty rainbow flags, most probably quite unaware of their significance.
It was an emotional and exhilarating day for me, one that I will never forget. Despite the masks, there was no hiding the visibility and pride. The message was clear: there is no going back. The future is ours.