The Queer Azaadi March and masks share a long-standing relationship. In its inaugural year in 2008, most members of the lesbian, gay and transgender (LGBT) community were spotted wearing masks to conceal their identity fearing a backlash from the society at large. However, on Saturday when 5,000 gay men, women and transgenders walked the parade along with their supporters and family members from August Kranti Maidan to Lamington Road, hardly 50 people had donned masks.
Vikram Doctor, founder of Gay Bombay, said that this was a sign that today the LGBT community has become fearless and confident about their identities. “This year most youngsters who are participating in the parade haven’t worn any masks. It can be attributed to the strong support system of their friends and family who have accepted them the way they are,” he said.
Harrish Iyer, a gay activist who participated in the parade, claimed that those who had actually donned masks were merely making a fashion statement.
Another person, who took part in the march and did not don a mask, said on condition of anonymity, “My friends and family are aware about my sexual orientation. So I don’t mind walking without a mask.”
Police adopts a sensitive approach
SENIOR Police Inspector of Gamdevi Police station Pradip Loandkar, under whose jurisdiction the Queer Azaadi March was organised, said, “I had told all the police officers that they shouldn’t laugh at any of the members of the gay pride parade. If anyone is seen mocking the people in the parade they would be dealt with strictly.”
Cops who were overseeing the security arrangements at the parade respected the community’s sentiments. Suryakant Ture, one of the police officers said, “Everyone makes a choice. Members of the LGBT community have made theirs and we should respect it.”