Walking down Egmore’s rather dusty gulleys might not have seemed a very inviting prospect for participants of the Chennai Rainbow Pride March, but nearly 500 marchers -- members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, NGO workers and IT professionals turned up for the event. Not even the searing temperature could dampen their spirits as they marched on Sunday afternoon.
Organised as part of the month-long Chennnai Rainbow Pride, this is the fifth year that the march has taken place in the city and it saw it’s largest turnout yet.
One really heartening aspect was that despite only a smattering of mechanics being around in the adjoining Pudupet area, hardly any of them recoiled, jeered or treated the largely transgender crowd as a Sunday afternoon spectacle. “Every year someone or the other makes fun of us. We see them pointing. But this year, as we walked through some of the most unsophisticated areas in the city, everyone seemed genuinely interested in the placards we held up,” said Amutha, a transgender who has come to the march for the third time running.
The marchers made a long, serpentine queue as they marched from Rajarathinam Stadium all the way to Langs Garden Road, passing through Pudupet and skirting Chintadripet. “Everyone seemed to look at the large rainbow streamer we carried instead of at our saris, so we were surprised, and happy!” she said, with a smile.
“We had people come in from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Mumbai among other towns in the State such as Salem, Tiruchy, and Coimbatore; it was very encouraging,” said L Ramakrishnan, one of the pride organisers and a member of the Chennai Rainbow Coalition.
If outstation participation wasn’t a boost enough, the presence of expats from the British Council and Alliance Francaise was a huge morale-booster for the LGBT community. The French women in particular were spotted dancing along with the transgenders, though neither could communicate with the other to well.
Though it might be premature to say that Chennai’s Rainbow Coalition has managed a mini Mardi Gras (the Sydney festival) of sorts, at least the participating transgenders came from being semi-reluctant marchers to sporting costumes -- there was a lawyer, a nurse, a surgeon with a scalpel and a policewomen -- as they made their demand to be allowed to have normal jobs, without facing discrimination. By the time the march ended, the sun had gone behind the clouds offering some respite.
There were many placards screaming a host of messages, but the most telling was the one that simply read ‘Born This Way’. Lady Gaga might not know it, but her angst anthem had a whole other meaning for Chennai’s ‘queer’ community.