How NOT to Organise a Pride Parade: A Listicle (with Some Advice thrown in)

During LGBTQ awareness sessions in college, I was asked, "Bhopal mein Pride kyun nahi hua?" So, a group of us took on the mission! Here's some gyaan on that.


1. Don’t make an anonymous Facebook event with an imaginary date & time.
Also, don’t make a pride poster for said mythical event.

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Plan your Pride March on a date that is suitable for your city.
We decided on the evening of May 17th (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) for Bhopal Pride to ensure that we would have clear skies and easy traffic.


Citizen’s Action Network (Bhopal CAN) was initiated to fight corporate crime and is not an NGO. We, strategically did not want to involve a registered entity for testing waters as many volunteers have been threatened before. It is our safe space and blanket to put forward our ideas without attaching them to faces.
 

2. Don’t use your best friend’s Grindr to lure people into meetings.

Also avoid making fake profiles and pursuing people till they turn up for a date with you, so that you can brainwash them into helping in organising a Pride Parade.

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Use technology, apps and meet-up groups to plan small meetings.
In Bhopal, a bunch of wise men met through Tinder & Grindr and created Harmless Hugs on MySpace to talk about their issues and find support in each other.

3. Don’t hover about the city looking for queer people

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Mobilise, organise and get people together! If yours is a smaller city and communities don’t gather easily, travel and meet new people & groups. Hear them out and make them feel like there are more people involved. Word of mouth works wonders in smaller circuits, and physical meetings offer more faith than telephonic conversations. Bhopal Pride was essentially initiated by straight allies till we found many, many beautiful queer people to join us and take on the mantle!
 


4. Don’t Bicker & Dominate each other

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Once a core team has been established chalk out a draft of your demands / agenda.

Collaborations are essential for a successful Pride Parade. Find activists, social workers, communities, professors and influencers who believe in equal rights. Any sane person, it is safe to assume, would believe in equal rights for the LGBTQIA community, and would help you spread the word. If possible, get many diverse people to the meeting to brainstorm prospective problems and solutions.

Most importantly, Listen.
Our preconceptions were proven wrong when we met local trans groups and Hijras at Gharanas. Their issues, motivation and demands were very different  from what we were assuming them to be. Chances are that your status, background or life may cause you to make immature judgements: for example not many people use LGBT to refer to alternate sexualities - they prefer using abbreviations for specific groups like MSM (men who have sex with men), etc. Remember that all communities, geographies and cultures are different and do what’s best for the ones you are working for.


Based on this, we decided that the Pride Parade would not protest against Section 377, since at that point, its implications were not fully understood. Sexual rights and privacy rights were a bigger priority for us. Based on this understanding, we drafted a Manifesto for Bhopal Pride, in collaboration with Centre for Social Justice.

5. Don’t Teach kids “inappropriate” things

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We invested a lot of our time in outreach and advocacy in schools and colleges. Along with members of local trans groups, we visited many institutions. While it is difficult to dismantle regressive authoritarians views, acknowledging their existence and influence helps us decide what language we should use and the sequence in which we should provide information.

“…but our professor said that porn makes people gay”

“But ‘gay’ people wear sarees and ask for money at traffic signals, why should we support them”

“If we come to the Pride, our parents will think we are homosexual.”

“What body parts do Hijras have?”

Sometimes an easier way is to start is with the question. “What is the difference between sex, gender and sexuality?”
 


WHAT TO DO INSTEAD:
 

1. Bombard the Commons:
While publicising the parade, use every avenue you can!

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Plan many small build-up events before the Pride.
For Bhopal, we made a schedule, which included:
- An art / photography exhibition featuring the work of a number of local artists (In collaboration with Alliance Francaise)
- A street play at DB Mall (in collaboration with Kaafila and ANSH Happiness Society)
- A panel discussion (in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya)
- A film screening (In collaboration with the Humsafar Trust)
- An open mic night (In collaboration with Dylogg Coworking)

Magar paise kahan se ayenge?

To fund Bhopal Pride Week, we chose to avoid approaching big businesses and opted to money through crowdfunding instead. We are very very grateful to each person who contributed to our campaign.

We are still broke.
 

2. Take pangas with the sanskaar gatekeepers

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You will confront many pseudo - custodians of religion. Dealing with them is overwhelmingly exhausting and will leave you with scars.
However, buck up and get back in the arena, and fight reason with reason and emotion with emotion. Remember, homophobia is conditioned. Carry handy proof when logic is questioned:

Homosexual behaviour is natural in all species.

Ancient stories and art have depicted same-sex intercourse.

Sex is not unnatural.

Repeat these mantras as and when required.
 

3. Gatecrash your own party

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The party, I assure you, would’ve started without you.
However, there should be unanimous clarity on the starting point and ending point of the march, post-march plans and slogans and banners. Make sure you have amenities, security, documentation help, scream-the-slogans volunteers and pacifiers.

Also let’s make sure we are not speaking for someone else or making assumptions about their identity. Get lots of masks and props for people who aren’t ready to come out as yet.

Intersectionality and inclusivity is key. Pride is for everyone.

4. Keep serving truth meals

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Pride may or may not be a one-time event, but our efforts definitely cannot and should not end there. We must consistently push privileged ignorant people to open their eyes. This one was a hard thing to digest for Bhopal and we were not guilty to serve it.


Kokila Bhattacharya is a visual artist, illustrator and activist. She is also an accidental entrepreneur (Co-founder, Dylogg Coworking) in Bhopal, where she also works with several organisations around the Bhopal-Carbide disaster, gender & sexuality, sustainability and design. She sketches/ sings/ dances/ writes (when not in slumber or anxiety). 
Questions everything... or not? You can find Kokila Bhattacharya and her work on instagram as @kokilab.