Ten years later, we are still standing, even if not tall. It has been a tumultuous journey; from telling us our lives were legal in 2009 to oh-wait-scratch-that-still-illegal in 2013, the landmark NALSA judgement in 2014 to the current Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill which neither protects trans rights nor complies with the operative part of NALSA, the progressive judgement on the Right to Privacy, and finally getting down to the Anti-Trafficking bill which can do more harm than good.
Initially established in 2009 as the Chennai Rainbow Coalition, a number of NGOs, CBOs, collectives and other organizations and individuals working in the space of queer rights and community support stitched themselves together to observe June as Pride month in Chennai and to conduct the first Pride march that year. In 2013, the Chennai Rainbow Coalition expanded to include similar groups outside Chennai and within Tamil Nadu, and renamed itself the Tamil Nadu Rainbow Coalition [TNRC].
In 2009, Marina Beach, we learned, was the venue we were permitted at our first March. In later years, we were shuffled around to Elliot’s beach and eventually to a stretch commencing from Rajarathinam stadium, Egmore. As to where we go from here, your guess is as good as mine!
However, now that we are talking about venues, let’s try to address the ubiquitous question: “why this venue?” This merits a two-part answer. This is the venue allocated by the state for protest marches, as the Pride march is classified. That being said, even if we had a choice over the venue, the right question to ask is “why NOT this venue?”
What makes this venue, unworthy of your walk? The class of neighborhood? Its residents? Or are you worried the puddle on the road will dirty your shoes? Where is the solidarity that you are marching for, if you can’t share “their” everyday lives for a few hours? Moreover, aren’t some of us them, some of them us?
Mind you, if a bisexual transwoman of color who was a sex worker didn’t help start the Stonewall riots, you wouldn’t have a Pride to celebrate this June for the 10th time. Perhaps, may be a beauty walk down your favorite lane, but that ain’t Pride, the one that is claiming you, your place in the society one right at a time. [We acknowledge there are valid concerns around the accessibility of this venue for those requiring wheelchairs, and are striving to address it by trying to mobilize vehicles that can transport people in wheelchairs].
Every Pride is a struggle to organize, be it for mobilizing funds, logistics, or applying for police permission every year. Simultaneously our voices have grown louder, more brazen and unapologetic.
Our focus on issues has diversified over the years, with growing consciousness of the overlapping nature of oppressions. Intersectionality became an operative word and efforts to link with other social justice movements became the need of the hour. Can we do more and better? Of course, yes, hopefully you will hear of it from a post about the 15th Chennai Pride.
I had to save this for the last: if you’ve heard a conversation containing the line “Chennai Pride is conservative” at the march, immediately imagine a person rolling his eyes so far back he can see the back of his skull. That person will unmistakably be yours truly. If by conservative, they mean middle-class led, trans-inclusive, caste-bashing, feminism-toting Pride, sloganeering for sex workers’ rights in a working class neighborhood, I will gladly take it, flashing all my conservative teeth!
Image Credits Haris Manian and copyright Orinam