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#VIBGYOR: Queering the Rainbow

This post is part of the Chennai Bloggers Club’s CBC #VIBGYOR blog tag where participants blogged on the colours of VIBGYOR each day, from September 1 to 7, 2013.

When the idea was put forth on CBC, I wanted to write up something that I firmly believe in – the freedom to be yourself, no matter what !! Letting the mind wander, I settled on the most obvious choice – the Rainbow flag for the LGBT movement. A firm believer in equality, I am of the opinion sexuality is one’s personal choice, not something to be judged by others. I intend to use this blog tag to give some insight into the Pride movement, hoping to raise some awareness among all of us.

rainbow flag image
Image source: http://emeraldsire.wordpress.com/

Violet for spirit

Originally flown for the first time at the San Fransisco pride movement in 1978, the flag has undergone a lot of changes over time. The San Francisco gay community adopted the rainbow flag with much fanfare, particularly in the wake of the assassination of the openly gay supervisor Harvey Milk (remember the movie Milk?) Thirty volunteers actually hand-dyed and stitched the flag for the San Fransisco pride movement.

Although the original flag consisted of eight colors (the VIBGYOR plus pink), the color pink was dropped later, due to its unavailability for mass production. Over the years, the rainbow flag has become the symbol for the pride movement all over the world. Each year, many cities across the world (and our very own Indian cities as well) celebrate the Pride March with much fanfare and gala. At each of these parades, the rainbow flag forms a very important element.

Indigo for harmony

The Stonewall riots of ’69 were perhaps the biggest inspiration to the whole Pride movement across the world. Following a raid by policemen on the Stonewall Inn in New York, members of the gay community resorted to violent demonstrations. Faced with discrimination even prior to that, all that was needed was a spark, to trigger a massive movement against what was considered ‘unjust’.

image of Stonewall Inn
Image source: http://www.whosestreetsourstreets.org/

Stonewall was originally a restaurant-cum-night club for heterosexual people. 1966 marked the year when the inn was converted to a gay bar. It did not have any license to sell liquor, but policemen were ‘paid off’ once a week. Patrons were required to sign their names after a bouncer ‘verified’ them through a peep hole.

On June 28 1969, a few policemen had entered the bar undercover to gather evidence, and in the wee hours of the morning, the place was fully surrounded by policemen who ‘took’ the place under seizure. By the time police wagons arrived to take custody of all the patrons arrested, the numbers had swelled outside the bar and there was a lot of commotion. Slowly, the commotion gave way to protests by the arrested people, many of whom were trying to escape or defy the police action. Later, the police were kept inside the bar, only to be rescued by another backup team. By then, emotions were running high. Slowly, the crowds cleared. But the next day, the riots began again, this time supported by tourists, bystanders and the like. Christopher Park (image below) nearby became base camp.

image of Christopher Park
Image source: Wikipedia

The aftermath of the Stonewall riots saw the formation of many LGBT support groups and alliances including the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance. The first ever Pride March in US history took place at the same Christopher park exactly a year after the Stonewall incident. Also, pride marches took place in Los Angeles and Chicago.

It must be said that the riots, though very sad in nature, served to inspire a lot of people to take up this activism world wide. Our own country too has had its share of activism with cities including Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi taking up the pride march each year where people “celebrate” who they are. Isn’t that what life is all about – To be who you are?

Blue, Green and Yellow for Magic, Nature and Sunlight

My most sincere apologies for not being able to post for the last two days, and a bigger apology for having to combine three posts into one. Work and studies have taken a serious toll the past few weeks and its been very hard to write. Yet, a commitment is a commitment. Ergo …

The topic of marriage has always been contentious. People have, for quite a while now, been trying to break free of caste/religion based shackles that constrict marriages across these boundaries. We have seen a lot of extreme cases, sometimes with the Khap Panchayats, fatwas and what not! It certainly is a challenge for a lot of us to look beyond these limitations to truly have a matrimony with the person we love. That said, this challenge is a lot more Herculean when it comes to the union of two people of the same sex.

marriage equality logo
Image source: HRC

The first few years of the 21st century perhaps formed a significant phase in the recognition of marriage equality between people of the same sex. More than a dozen countries in the world today recognize same-sex marriages, the most significantly recent perhaps being New Zealand. In addition, a lot of countries recognize civil unions. And then there are countries that have a strict “Oh My God, no no, its a sin” attitude.

Ancient Chinese and Roman historical records mention male relationships.Medieval history has it that a Spanish church performed a same sex marriage between two men way back in 1061. In contemporary times, Denmark perhaps is the first country that recognized a legal relationship for same sex couples, back in 1989. Netherlands, in 2001, became the first country ever to give legal validity to same sex marriages. South Africa, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, Sweden, Norway are a few other countries that recognize same sex marriages by law. Mexico is perhaps one of the few countries that legalized adoption by same sex couples. The United Kingdom recognizes civil unions, but not marriages. And then there’s Obama, who has been generally very supportive of this cause.

map of countries where homosexuality is criminalized
Image source: Wikipedia

India is one of the many countries where discussing sexuality itself is considered a taboo. Well, discussing sex is looked down upon, let alone sexuality. However, a significant step was taken back in 2009 when the Delhi High Court read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes “sexual activity against the order of nature”. This is largely perceived as a big milestone for the LGBT community’s fight towards equality.

Recent years have seen a rise in the number of activists and support groups in India that patronize the cause for equality. Pride parades have been up and about in many Indian cities including our very own Chennai. There are a lot of NGOs and support groups that organize these Pride parades and like any event typically Indian, the parades are celebrated with much pomp and show; not to mention the colors and high spirits.

There is no doubt that India has a long way to go before it can even think about legalizing same sex marriages, let alone take any step towards it. That said, I do believe that in a way, this sometimes seems logical as well. A country that has a deep sense of cultural attachment; a country where emotions run deep and pounce hard; a society which has its own troubles to fathom; a community that still is fighting hard to provide respect for its citizens irrespective of caste, religion and color; a place that still strives to provide for security to both women and men; discussion of homosexuality is something way out of its league. Yet, positive strides are being achieved towards this, and things would take their own sweet time. But hope is what we as humans in general, and Indians in specific have in abundance. The country sure has a long way to go in this direction, but it will.

Orange for healing

From childhood, we are taught to love. Love thy neighbors, love your parents, love your friends, your family, your pets; well what not? Going by that simple reasoning, we all hope to love. And most certainly, be loved. Marriages are merely a ceremony that, in some sense, officiates this love between two individuals.Why should one be denied the chance to love someone who they think could be ‘the one’? Why put a tag on this and say it is against nature?

Things may well have been so way back in history. So be it. But times have changed, haven’t they? Cultures have evolved; societies have evolved; humans have evolved – so why not evolve our magnanimity? A mere acceptance of ‘so called deviation from what has been deemed normal’ – I do understand that it is hard. True, it really is. But a trial wouldn’t hurt, would it?

Every individual, man or woman, certainly has the right to choose whom he/she wants to love, make love to, spend time with, spend a life with. Indeed, as a human, that’s perhaps the most fundamental right any person is entitled to. If a man wants to be with another man, that’s his personal preference. If a woman wants to say ‘I do’ to another woman, that is her individual choice. If a person so believes that his ‘given gender’ isn’t really what it is, that is his/her belief.

I believe that the confrontation arises when individuals want to deviate from what has been taught to be normal; what has been said is right. Again, who are we to deny them this ‘deviation’? Who really bestowed this ‘I have the right to reject’ notion? If that is the case, the other person well has the ‘right to reject your rejection’ – well that’s a chain, much like Rachel and Phoebe asking Joey if Monica and Chandler ‘know that we know they know we know’ (I had to bring in atleast one F.R.I.E.N.D.S reference). Again, even in F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Carol and Susanne were a same-sex couple after all, and the six of them seemed totally ok with it.

One may go on to argue that we, as a society, have a lot more to worry about, a lot to care about and acceptance of homosexuality is perhaps not so important. Maybe. But, just think about it. All these minorities ask is a small step towards a bigger good. Is that so hard? Don’t we, the society, owe it to our fellow humans this small step? A step to be more inclusive, where one can, quite simply, love who they want?

Think about it.

Red for Life

So finally, we come to the end of this blog tag. Initially, when I decided to take up this theme for the blog, I was a bit skeptical about the sort of ‘image’ that would be conveyed. But something told me to go ahead, nonetheless. And I did.

I’ve had some people leave out comments, and a many more appreciating my efforts to write about this topic, both within the Chennai Bloggers group, and outside it on Facebook. The best feedback (appreciation is more like it) I received was from this one person from Bangalore, who just messaged me on Facebook ten minutes before I started this post. I dedicate this finale to you. Here’s what he had to say:

“Dear Mr. Prashanth, I just want to thank you for your effort to sensitize such an important issue, so boldly on your blog. I know I may not speak for a lot of people, but just for myself. I just want to say that your posts have been very informative and yesterday’s post was particularly thought provoking. I am a 35 year old gay man in a very good position, who hasn’t been married, nor am I out to my parents (who, by the way, are 65+, so it is just too much effort to make them realize this). I sometimes wonder how difficult it is for the younger gay men of these days to talk about their sexuality so openly. After much thinking, I believe that it is the support of people like you who are around them, who are so accepting. I tried to leave an anonymous comment on your blog, but I guess you have turned that off. After much thinking, I decided to take a chance and send you this message from my own Facebook account, in the hope that you appreciate discretion”

To you, sir, I have just this to say – Thank You for the kind words; it means a lot.

On the hopeful note that the world becomes a better place to live in…

 

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