The author’s first rainbow pride march experience energized him to move out of his comfort zone.

Hyderabad, February 19, 2017 would always be a red letter day for me! It was my first rainbow pride march experience. I was quite sceptical about going, as I had no one to accompany me. But then I thought, for a change, why not give it a try. Why worry about being alone, what’s wrong in meeting new people and getting to know what was happening in Hyderabad?

Though I was late to arrive at the pride march, I was lucky enough to spot a group of walkers. People were still arriving in groups (at the starting point at Krishna Kanth Park). Drums were beating amid a sea of smiling faces. There was so much positive vibe, quite difficult to express in words.

People were dancing and I felt so tempted to join in, but then I held back, shyness getting the better of me. Just then an old friend from Bangalore spotted me, and I was thankful I wasn’t alone any longer. This man was an inspiration to me as he had been working informally with the queer community in Bangalore since a long time. As I spoke to him I learned that he was now working on queer rights as part of his own organization.

I’m an introvert in gatherings, but that day was different. Perhaps it was the presence of my friend that motivated me. Or, it could be because of skills picked up as part of my job in an NGO, where I’m supposed to meet many unknown people and talk to them about our work. Whatever it was, something clicked inside me and I said to myself, “Let’s explore!”

Photograph shows a scene from the starting point of the ‘Hyderabad HLGBTIQ Pride 2017’ at Krishna Kanth Park. A young man is holding a placard that says “LGBTQ against Casteism”. The lettering is in various rainbow colours on white chart paper. The man is looking down at the writing on the placard as he holds it across. There are other men next to him or around him, holding paper rainbow flags and the pride march banner. It is a bright sunny day, and people seem to be sweating as they wait for the pride march to start. Photo credit: Dr. Mukut Bhowmik.

The walk was yet to start and I was standing by a wall holding a small rainbow flag, which I had bought from a woman. I saw a few young men standing next to me holding the same flag, with a middle aged man also with them. I said hello to one of them and asked him what had made him come to the event. What he said could be a strong indicator of a change. He said he wasn’t gay but he had come along with a gay friend to support him. He said he often protected his friend from social ridicule and had told other straight friends in college to respect and accept the fact that his friend was gay.

The middle aged man also joined in on our conversation and said he was the father of the gay man, and he wanted his son to have all the rights others enjoyed. I observed that this group of people seemed to be middle class, and it was refreshing to hear them talk about equality and human rights. So something might be changing for the better in our society.

This conversation seemed to energize me further. I wanted to meet and talk to more people, never mind if the others thought I was a news reporter. I came across a few young women who were there to support their gay friends. Another young man told me he was not out about his sexual orientation, but he wanted to be a part of the rainbow pride march. Interestingly, he had informed his parents about his whereabouts, but they had raised no objection!

I wondered if it was true that our parents were often aware about us without us realizing. If yes, then it might well be rigid social norms that restricted them from accepting us. Why are we so obliged to society that we forget what we want? I think this could be an ongoing debate with probably no conclusion.

Photograph shows a scene from the ‘Hyderabad HLGBTIQ Pride 2017’. The walkers (around 30 of them are visible in the photograph) are carrying aloft a huge rainbow flag stretching several metres – we can’t see the entire flag in the photograph. It is made of silky cloth, which glistens in the bright sun. It seems to be the front end of the pride march, as it takes a turn from one road onto another. The walkers are all smiles and shouting slogans, with photographers trying to take shots from strategic angles. The colours of the rainbow flag seem to stand out against the green of the tree-lined roads and the bright blue of the sky. Photo credit: Dr. Mukut Bhowmik.

I met two men dressed quite differently. One was wearing a saree and bindi but he had a beard and moustache, and there was no way I could resist myself asking him the reason for such an appearance. He confidently replied that society thought being gay was the same as being feminine, and that what one wore was determined by one’s gender. He wanted to question these norms. Indeed, society seems to have norms to judge any and every individual. I was criticized for the way I danced when I was growing up – people joked that it was so feminine. But that didn’t deter me because I knew what I had within myself was pure and it had nothing to do with my being masculine or feminine.

The second person was wearing a golden turban, white shiny dhoti and a little jewellery. He was quite attractive. He smiled and said people in India thought being homosexual was a western fad, which the young generation was aping blindly. But he was there at the pride march to emphasize that homosexuality had a long history in our own cultures.

Soon after, the march started. The walkers waved the rainbow flag against the sky to proclaim that they might be different in terms of being queer, but they were no different in terms of being human.

All photo credits: Dr. Mukut Bhowmik (scenes from the ‘Hyderabad HLGBTIQ Pride 2017’ – the abbreviation stands for Hijra, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer or questioning).