[So I deserve cookies today too, but since I am stuffed with garlic bread and cheese I shall forgo my demands of the universe and just ask for this post to be finished before midnight.
Edited before posting to add: It wasn’t. It’s 12:40 a.m. Next time, I’ll start earlier.]
I’ve never Marched for Pride before – it’s embarrassing to admit it, but I spent two whole years in Bangalore not even knowing they were happening. Where was my head? What was I doing? It’s a mystery. If I hadn’t been accidentally linked to Good As You, I’d never have even really believed there were LGBT people in Bangalore. And let’s not even start on what might have happened if I hadn’t screwed up the courage to go to a meeting – there’d be nothing to start with.
Anyway. I woke up this morning an hour earlier than I intended to because we had visitors. I watched Numb3rs. (Charlie Epps is so cute, etc.) I made careful purchases to ensure I wouldn’t collapse of deprivation while I walked – coke, granola bars, chocolate. (I learned today that granola bars are a dyke thing. Who knew?)
Then I wended my auto’d, expensive way to Majestic, and walked around until I saw a rainbow-coloured umbrella. And then another. Aha, my inner Sherlock said. This might be My People! And they were!
I was a few minutes early, and the actual walking didn’t start for nearly an hour. This was an hour spent socialising and making note of the people I’d met over the past few days and figuring out which ones I absolutely must talk to again because I actively like them. (Yeah, I’m talking about you. Of course I’m talking about you, babe, I love you! and so on.) I find it a little odd, how many people I recognise. It’s not a HUGE community, but I guess certain people show up everywhere – because they’re active, they’re supportive, they’re gutsy, they’re proud, it’s either be seen or roll over and die – what have you. People were putting on the hats and masks and picking out posters and getting their faces painted.
I’d located KRI today, learned I could write about him as s/he if I pleased, watched as he got half a green moustache painted on hir face, and finally decided I too must be painted. There were, as far as I could make out, three people doing the painting. Pallavi, the only person I knew, was busy, so a tiny woman (it is very nice to be in Bangalore, where so many people are shorter than I am) called Francesca dabbled away at my left cheek. I couldn’t see the damn thing, though I had asked for Not Pink, and Whatever You Like, so I assumed it was pretty. Staring forbiddingly at my phone, daring her to think I was falling for her technological allure, I managed to take a photo of it. A small triumph for Machine, a Giant Victory over Roh-kind! (Over the course of the day, loads of people took photographs of said cheek. I shall hunt up a few and maybe put them here.)
So. At some point, when the crowd size and assorted noises (people, auto, loudspeaker, various percussion instruments, horn) reached critical mass – We Marched!
I must admit, I was a bit iffy about this whole marching business. I could ramble on and on about why I was ambiguous, but I shall make a tidy list instead.
- Am I, in fact, all that proud? Dedicated readers might have noticed a certain yen for self-criticism. Does my acceptance of my sexual self indicate the kind of effusiveness the word “Pride” projects?
- If I suggest that “Pride” is an act of defiance, of self-acceptance, of assertion of my Dignity as a sexual human being, am I steady enough in my Self to walk in public, making this statement?
- Am I queer? I like women, and I like men; am I comfortable with the label of “bisexuality”, “queer”, granola-eating “dyke”? If I march, am I surrendering to these terms? Am I “committing”, and am I okay with that?
- Does being not-straight truly make me one with all these people, these massed hordes none of whom seem similar to me, whether they’re L, G, B, T or unlabelled? Or “straight”?
- Oh my gods, a three-hour walk? Won’t my feet fall off?
To answer some of these questions: I may not be proud of me, but I fucking well am proud of us. I’m not “like” all of these people, but that’s okay, I’m with them anyway. I don’t need the label, but it’s not technically inaccurate, and if it is, I’ll sort it out when I need to, and until then I’ll take a fucking chill pill. I’m not strange, but hey, why not, I’m queer and I’m here. I need to get over it. And oh heavenly gods, a three-hour walk, my feet felt like they’d fall off. (But no worries! They’re still here!)
I moved from the front to the back to the middle and sallied here and there. At one point, I wore a green wig.
I didn’t dance – I did wiggle my hips. Twice. Someone, I forget who, told me I needed to loosen up, but I kept things tight. I took a few photographs. I found most of the people I’ve met over the past few weeks. I held up posters now and again. I hugged. I shared the coke, which was nice of me.
I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. Don’t ask me why I was so happy. Why I’m still so happy. We were all fucking high on ourselves, and I swear even the policemen making sure we marched in a somewhat orderly manner cracked a smile every so often.
The Pride website tells me we marched from Tulsi Park (near Majestic bus station) through Anand Rao Circle, Freedom Park and Corporation Circle to Banappa Park. I wouldn’t know – that entire side of town is like the past and another country for me. (Also, I travel a lot by bus, which means I don’t always pay attention to how I’m going where I’m going.)
Well. Well. We got there. By now, even the most hardcore jumpy dancers were flagging. Akkai (Padmashali?) welcomed us all there – dudes, if we go by type alone, there were loads of us! Queer Trangendered F-to-M M-to-F Hijra Kothi Jogappa Gay Bi Lesbian Straight and I dunno what all. At that moment it just felt like there were masses and masses of us, and we were one big mushily loving family. (It is now past midnight on the 29th, and I am back to my charming, cynical, pessimistic self. But at that moment…)
Sumathi from Sangama, Ramesh Babu from the Janatha Dal Secular party, someone from the CSI (?) not sure about this last. Topics of interest were, of course, the Naz judgement, the appeal at the Supreme Court, Karnatakan government decisions to provide more assstance to the transgender community (loans, employment, the lot); and of course the stuff we’re still asking for free Sexual Reassignment Surgery, lower costs for Anti Retroviral Treatments, the right to education and employment, the right to adopt… Sumathi mentioned, and for some reason I remembered this very clearly, more than anything else, that it was imperative that forced marriages be done away with – to force someone to be that miserable is kinda sucky. (She was more heartfelt than this, but I am being briefer than brief.) At some point, Akkai called some of the individual organisers (Tanvi, Siddharth, Amritha, Niruj, Sumathi, the other Siddharth[?]) up on to the stage and garlanded them, which was adorable.
Two friends of mine, J and A, showed up at around this point, not more than mildly shamefaced at having missed the actual walking. But they took me out for food and coffee after, so I forgive them. I was proud enough for all three of us, anyway.