CHENNAI: It was all about colour, happiness, celebration and pride as hordes of people gathered outside Rajarathinam Stadium on Sunday afternoon to commemorate ten years of the Rainbow Pride.
The annual march, which is organised by Tamil Nadu Rainbow Collective (TNRC), saw active participation from members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and other (LGBTIQA+) community.
“It is a day of celebration, a day of immense joy for us,” said Sankari, a transwoman associated with the NGO, Nirangal. “It was so heartening to see so many people join us. A significant change I observed this year is that a number of people who were gender fluid, pansexual, asexual and associated themselves to different identities joined the movement in large numbers. It was wonderful.”
She said it was very important to conduct such marches as it gave people grappling with their sexuality and gender identity reassurance that they have people they can fall back on.
“So many people are ashamed of their identity and sexuality, which makes them remain firmly in the closet,” Sankari said. “Unable to cope with this, some even commit suicide. The march is a way that we can get more people to accept themselves and come out of the closet. It is a means to show them that this is a safe space and that a support system exists to help them.”
Srijith Sundaram of Kattiyakkari Theater Group, who is an LGBT activist, said the Pride this year was the best he had attended so far, echoing what a number of others felt too. “It was so nice to see a lot more lesbian women and transmen join us this year,” he said. “It was like a carnival. People came, danced, sang, celebrated and felt a sense of oneness. It helps to develop a sense of community and fosters faith in LGBT people that they can rely on the community for support. It is to urge more people not to lead their lives based on the expectations that society has thrust on us, but rather to embrace their identity and sexuality.”
Organisers added that the Chennai Pride was special as it was themed ‘Suya Mariyadhai Vizha’ which means ‘March for Self Respect.’ The event was to celebrate the visibility of alternative sexualities, gender identities and sex characteristics, and affirm the notion of self-respect as a key goal for LGBTIQA+ movements.
“This has been the largest turnout of people we have seen and that is a very positive sign,” said Harish Subramanian, a member of the community. “Chennai has not been a very welcoming space for the community as it is largely a conservative city. Seeing so many people is one of the biggest achievements.”