Hyderabad Pride march 2018: Queer people, allies talk about need to extend debate beyond Section 377

It was a walk like none other. The people who marched represented as many qualities as there are colors in a rainbow – sassy, stoic, somber, sad, strong, spirited and sanguine. Hyderabad’s Pride walk saw more than 500 people turning up, consisting of both, members from the LGBTQI community and people supporting them.

There was dance, drama and drums galore, ensuring that the parade made its presence felt in the city. Named the Hyderabad Queer Swabhimana Yatra, this march conducted over 4 kilometres was peaceful with over 50 police personnel (including women) helping participants navigate both traffic and the gaping crowds, with ease. Some dressed up, others dressed down and the rainbow flag fluttered high as a shining beacon of optimism.

They were stories of every color at the event — of pride, of pain, but mostly, of hope.

A man who was physically assaulted at last year’s Pride walk for wearing a sari turned up defiant. A 53-year-old mother whose son came out of the closet a decade ago came to lend her support, even though her son was away in the US. A techie wanted to start a discussion about homosexual men marrying women, and ways to prevent this.

The posters people displayed at the Hyderabad Pride March

The posters people displayed at the Hyderabad Pride March. Photograph by Dileep Verma

Laying the groundwork to make a difference

The 4.5 kilometre walk was one of the best in the city in terms of attendance, says Vaivab Das, this year’s organiser and a Masters student in gender studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). He adds, “The idea is to create an impact, which is the first step to bring about change. Until you let it be known that different people have different choices and create awareness, there cannot be a solid, tangible ground to make a difference.”

This year’s march saw a lot of support pouring in from all quarters. Apart from the members of the community, there were a lot of people, both young and old, who came forward and took part to show their solidarity and speaking out against the discrimination meted out to the queer community.

Stories of courage

The common thread which bound together every member of the queer community was that all of them had an overwhelming desire to share their stories. Some insightful, others profound, but all of them important.

Tashi Chordup, who calls himself a Buddhist Monastic (not a monk, which he says is male gendered) came from Bodhgaya and implored people, especially cis-heterosexual individuals, to leave their prejudices behind. He says that he has high hopes from the people of Hyderabad. “The state of Telangana was born from a people’s movement and I fervently hope that a similar phenomenon rises which takes the queer movement forward. Society should always be open to conversation; whether we must agree or disagree can be decided later on,” he shares.

One person who caught everyone’s attention with her heartening story was 53-year-old Mala, whose son came out in 2006, and who says that she was disappointed that there was no other parent other than her at the Pride. She says, “I know it’s not easy for parents to accept their child’s sexuality, but then, how can love be universal if you don’t embrace their choice?”

Mala

Mala, a 53-year-old mother who talked about the importance of parental acceptance of their queer children. Photograph by Dileep Verma

Stressing on the importance of parental acceptance, she has started the ‘Uphaar Parents Circle’ to counsel other parents. “When my son first confided in me, I was confused, but then he educated me and I read up about it. My son is brilliant and his sexuality is no one else’s business,” she asserts.

Some like Saleha Hussian, a software engineer at Microsoft, say that awareness is the key. She says, “I knew that I liked women when I was seven years old. Growing up, I was aghast to know that there was no term for the word ‘gay’ in Hindi. While people are gradually accepting the community, the need of the hour is discussions and a realisation that we won’t go away just because you ignore us.”

People dressed up for the Pride march

People dressed up for the Pride march. Photograph by Dileep Verma

Extending the debate beyond Section 377

Hyderabad’s LGBTQ community feels that people need to go beyond the draconian colonial law to bring about change. Saleha feels, “Laws are a representation of society. The more accepting people are, the more inclusive law tends to be. People are the real change makers.”

The rally, which culminated with a speech, also went beyond Section 377. They spoke against the stereotyping of gay men in Telugu movies, stressed on the importance of gender sensitisation at corporate offices and the pressing need for platforms to help members dealing with depression. The queer community in the city lost a member last year when Vishal Tandon, a PhD student, committed suicide while battling depression. The members spoke of how such deaths can be prevented if the entire community stood together as one.

Though it is a conservative city, Hyderabad has been taking baby steps towards ending discrimination. While it is not as inclusive as Mumbai or Delhi, there is still hope about change, as was evident when the English and Foreign Languages University recently held its first queer film festival, ‘This is Me’.

There is a lot that remains to be achieved. The community knows better than anyone the challenges they face, but are unwavering in the hope that acceptance, though tough, is achievable. Slowly but surely, equality for all seems like a mountain which can be conquered.


Updated Date: Feb 20, 2018 20:20 PM

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