Pune's first LGBT pride parade low on pageantry, but outlook bright

Doctors, lawyers, friends of LGBT people attend event that sees paraders follow dress code in keeping with cultural ethos of Pune Doctors, lawyers, friends of LGBT people attend event that sees paraders follow dress code in keeping with cultural ethos of city

The first-ever lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride parade happened on the streets of the city yesterday morning. The parade was an event with a difference as a large number of activists, lawyers and friends of LGBT people walked in support of gay rights and appealed to society to accept them as they are.

Compared to pride parades in other metro cities, yesterday's parade in the city was less colourful as organiser Samapathik Trust had appealed to participants to not wear masks and to follow a strict code of conduct to avoid any friction. 

As a result, the parade turned out to be like any other rally, with groups of people clad mostly in kurtas raising slogans such as "Sadda haq aithe rakh (Your right, keep it here)" and "Cure homophobia" rather than community members wearing masks or gesturing at the spectators with their painted faces. 

Walking the talk: Participants at yesterday's parade. Pics/Pooja Wagh

The parade was led by Darshana Vyas and was flagged off by Dr Devendra Shirole.  More than 50 members of the LGBT community and an equal number of friends, doctors and lawyers supporting gay rights walked during the hour-and-half duration of the parade for HIV awareness and gay rights.

No masks, skin show
For a few participants from a Mumbai queer group, the gay pride parade in the city was less glamorous an affair than they were used to. But the organisers of the event reasoned that discipline and a strict code of conduct that included not colouring their faces and avoiding skimpy attire was necessary to go with the cultural ethos of the city. 

"Our struggle is for social acceptance and not for people to treat us differently. Moreover, we avoided any friction as we want to repeat such events frequently," said Bindumadhav Khire, president of Samapathik. Parikshit, a college student from Sangamner said, "I am yet to disclose my sexual leaning to my family. But I have experienced discrimination in school and college because of the way I conduct myself. After coming here, I feel confident."

Payal, a transgender, said, "The pride parade was necessary and we are happy it passed off peacefully. It was necessary to create awareness in society for it to accept us as we are." Balachandran, a core member of Gay Bombay who was closely associated with organising three LGBT parades in Mumbai and Bengaluru, said, "The pride march in Pune lacked the usual flamboyance, but participants were cheering slogans and holding relevant placards. So bystanders and the crowd took notice of the purpose of this parade. And the purpose was served. Moreover, it is a good start, considering the LGBT movement is nascent in a culturally conservative city like Pune."

BINDUMADHAV Khire, president of Samapathik, said, "We have received feedback that we should organise these parades six-monthly. Pathfinder International has allotted funds for an organisation development project and these will be utilised to conduct workshops for sensitisation of media and lawyers. With a database of almost 1,500, we are planning to launch an e-newsletter for the community members."

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