Pride, but not Proud?!
When I first read about Pride in 2010, I did not know what the word meant, or what it meant to be a part of the community. I didn’t even know if anything similar was happening in Delhi. It was only in the first year of my Bachelors degree that I learned about the term ‘Queer’. But I was still too hesitant to talk to anybody about collectives that spoke and mobilized themselves around issues pertaining to gender, sex or sexuality. So, my first semester in college passed by without me learning about the annual Delhi Pride parade.
In 2014, I finally became aware of the Delhi Queer Pride (DQP) parade, but could not participate, partly because I had exams, and partly because I was too scared to go - what if somebody recognized me? How would my family react?
In 2015, I finally decided to go even though I had exams, not only the day before, but on the day of the parade itself. I spent a few hours there and got back home right before the pamphlet was to be read, and the events were about to start. The following year I attended my second pride, but only for two hours, because as usual, I had exams, and a curfew at home.
Before 2015 Pride, I had attended the first pride planning meeting and was subsequently added to various social media groups. My friends and I were given the space to share any suggestions we had for Pride. One point that came out loud, clear, and unanimously from the student members was the request to pre-pone the date of Pride to November, so that a lot more students could attend. For almost a year and a half, there were general conversations around the issue of changing the date, but it only came up seriously while planning DQP 2017, when the point was raised strongly by the student body inside and even outside the Pride committee.
This request resulted in bigger and longer conversations around the date change for Pride. Though there were discussions related to preponing or postponing the event, no date was being agreed upon by everybody. Some of the more experienced members of the planning group said that we could try preponing Pride that year, but this was met with some resistance - which was alright, until this entire conversation was opened up on a public domain by a community member. Maybe this was done accidentally in the spur of the moment, but it led to really ugly debates and forms of bullying and attacking from almost all sides of the argument. In my opinion, this was really not required.
The discomfort came in the way the arguments were presented from the side resisting the date change. “Students” and “student collectives” were coloured in the same shade. They were labelled as the “sub-majority” under a minority group. It was alleged that the entire students’ movement or mobilization was elite and privileged, and the different backgrounds and contexts from which students came to universities in Delhi were not taken into consideration. Students were told that attending exams was a choice, and people who could not attend Pride because they were students now, could attend it when they were not students anymore - as if there would be no new students in the years to come.
While students’ requests for date change were being shut down, and taking exams was being called ‘an option’, there were serious considerations about changing the dates for Diwali, and not because of the post-Diwali smog which is becoming a serious problem in Delhi - NCR, but because Diwali was seen as a festival most people would be busy celebrating - an obnoxious assumption.
Some members rallied against the date change, claiming that it was traditional for the parade to happen in the last week of November, and that it would be best to let it happen on the day it has been happening in the past ie. the last Sunday of November. The endorsement of this argument by members of a movement that has always struggled do away with ‘tradition’ as an idea altogether was especially shocking.
Students were constantly being referred to as a homogenised privileged group, which really did not do justice to the students within the group with marginal class, caste and gender identities. Most of the students within the group, by the virtue of being students, were economically dependent and answerable to their families, caretakers and guardians, and were thus restricted in many ways. Though I realize how education and academia have essentially been catering to a privileged crowd and creating another set of elite circles among people even inside the movement, but instead of recognising the changing tends inside of academia and the need to make it more accessible to everybody, we basically discussed how people having educational privilege should not attend Pride.
After this episode, it seems like the idea that the Delhi Queer Pride community is made of people who recognize their own privileges as senior activists and are working towards making “safe spaces” for everybody is an illusion. It is also true that queer communities often have their own hierarchies, wherein upper caste-upper class-cisgendered-masculine gay men use their ‘male privilege’ to dominate a community made of plural voices. It almost seems like the queer community is then just a mirror image of the larger society with its hierarchies and power structures.
The kind of violence that LGBTQIA+ individuals face because of being the marginalised within the queer movement often goes unnoticed, because we have no proper redressal mechanisms or sensitization drives within the community that organises Pride. All the fundraising parties for Delhi Queer Pride (DQP) that I have attended till now have been really uncomfortable for me and for a lot of other people. It is unfortunate that as queer people who have experienced violence and discrimination for most of our lives, we keep enabling and perpetuating similar violences and discriminations.
The point I have been trying to make is that maybe it is time for the queer community to reflect upon its own hypocrisy, and realise that even queer spaces, which aim to be inclusive and accommodating of diverse identities, can be intolerant of differences. I wish that we could create new spaces for new ideas, opinions and suggestions, and find new perspectives by having conversations with each other. As much as I understand our need to love and respect the struggles of those who have paved the way for us, it is time to now demand similar love for younger queers. While I acknowledge the need for more younger people to take more initiative in groups such as the DQP, it is also important to emphasise that the queer community should accept people, irrespective of their efforts and contributions to the community. Questions such as ‘what have you done for Pride in the last ten years’ reek of arrogance, and end up discouraging young people from participating in queer movements, and really claiming them as their own.
Anonymous is often called Omnl Chow. Omnl is crazy about Lana Del Rey, Tibetan food and animals. Having finished his Master's, Omnl is currently chasing monkeys and being chased by puppies. Omnl's work has previously appeared on YKA.