Freedom in God’s own country
Published: 24th July 2010 08:53 AM |
July 2, 2010. The first queer pride march in Kerala to be held in Thrissur”, news reports in bold all over ann­ounce this historic happening. I wake up with a jolt. Thrissur is where I grew up, closeted for 18 years. This is truly historic for me. Being able to walk the streets of this small town, with beautiful drag queens in unapologetically loud colours and costumes, gay men with masks and without, holding rainbow-coloured flags. Lesbians and bisexuals and transgendered people claiming the streets, pushing the mainstream to the margins for once. Cars slow down, bus drivers for once don’t race through the streets. Everyone stops to stare. Life stood still for a few hours as we marched. The sheer exhilaration of taking centrestage, the defiance in the air lifting our spirits to new highs. The heteronormative gaze challenged by this colourful spectacle. Liberation. At last. Even if it’s only for a few hours. Liberation nevertheless.
I met people who unlike me, never had the choice or bravely chose not to search for freedom in the anonymity of big cities. People who stayed back and fought in intensely misogynist, homophobic spaces. In a place where the many shades of red have become dry, unrecognisable political colours. I salute you. A new kind of politics, a renewed ideal of social equality is born. We reclaim the rights over our own bodies, what we choose to do with them, who we choose to be with, what genders we want to identify with, the way we dress, the way we feel. We chant Malayalam and Tamil slogans jolting the onlookers out of their comfortable stupor.
I had chosen for a long time to not attend the queer pride marches in the metros for various reasons. I had saved myself up as some kind of a parade virgin for this moment. This pride march was different. No celebrities. No long speeches from people “leading’’ our struggle. We march hand in hand. As equals playing an equal part. The reporters click away happily, vultures waiting for bytes. The reports come later, bland journalistic pieces stating the facts, squeezing all the colour out of the event. A reporter from a leading newspaper asks me, “Which faction do you support?” I scratch my head, bewildered. “What do you mean?” I ask. He says with utmost seriousness, “Bisexual, hijra, gay, lesbian. Which faction do you support?”. Sigh. I do not answer. Politics without factions. How do I explain this?
This is for Maria, the most beautiful drag queen in the world. This is for Shah (name changed) who wanted to, but could not wear a saree this time. This is for all my queer friends watching from the sides who couldn’t join our march. For all the supporters who came out in large numbers in a show of solidarity. For having the strength to come out and challenge the hypocrisy of a society in which politicians getting “caught’’ with women in cars have to swear “they haven’t done anything” while there is no public outcry about dalit women being raped, or lesbians being harassed. Where the moral brigade is ever-so-ready to pass judgments on the “moral depravity” of our choices.
Our banners read “From silence to celebration”. I can’t even bring myself to speak against the uncritical way in which we celebrated the reading down of Section 377. To say we should fight for completely scrapping Section 377 and having new provisions for child abuse to avoid the easy and commonplace conflation of paedophilia and homosexuality. Because this is the first public rally we’ve had to make ourselves more visible as a community, to reclaim our rightful space in society, to fling ourselves into the midst of the mainstream from the peripheries. So, this time it’s one big colourful celebration of our “natural” and “normal” difference from the others. However naive and idealistic this sounds, the queer revolution is here to stay.
— Gayathri is a student who works with queer collective Anjuman. Gayathri.firstname.lastname@example.org