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Willingdon Gymkhana opens doors for queer cricket league

The Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana hosts the Queer Premier League (QPL) tomorrow, making a pitch for inclusion

This Sunday, the Willingdon Gymkhana ground at Santacruz, will play host to four cricket teams comprising 50 lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women, who will play a 20:20 tourney, called the Queer Premier League (QPL). The QPL is part of the ongoing Queer Pride Month in Mumbai.

Queer games held at Juhu beach on January 3
Queer games held at Juhu beach on January 3

The significance of the QPL goes beyond the scoreboard. The 87-year-old Gymkhana, a landmark in Santacruz, and known for its many family events, barbeques and game nights, is just one among other venues, opening doors for the LGBT community.

Sonal Giani
Sonal Giani

Activists say there has been a remarkable shift in attitude, making mainstream places more accessible to the community. Last week, there was a programme of queer games held at the Juhu beach, in yet another claiming of public spaces by the community effort.

The Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana at Santacruz. Pic/Shadab Khan
The Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana at Santacruz. Pic/Shadab Khan

“The city is becoming more inclusive. We are having a much smoother time progressively, when it comes to acquiring police arrangements for events and using public spaces. When we access places like Juhu beach or popular gymkhanas, it helps chip away at prejudice,” said Sonal Giani, advocacy manager, Humsafar Trust, a non-profit organization working for LGBT issues.

The QPL, organized by Umang, a resource group for LBT women, will have four teams of 11 players each padding-up for a 20:20 match at the Willingdon ground, permission for which was easy to come by from the BMC.

“The ground, while managed by the Willingdon Gymkhana, belongs to the BMC, and we approached them with much trepidation. It went off hassle-free,” said an Umang member.

Contrast this with last year, where the QPL was held at a small ground in Mahim, which turned out to be a forgettable experience. Slum dwellers from nearby shanties trooped into the maidan and ran on the pitch, interrupting the match, and there was some verbal harassment too.

This year then, promises to be better, with the Willingdon Gymkhana club allowing them access to its washrooms too. Sonya Cornelio, General Manager of the club said, “As long as it is a sporting event, the club has no problem. We don’t discriminate on any grounds, in fact, last year too, the ground was rented out to an NGO who organised a football match for transgender men and women.”

Happily not just gymkhanas, but more college campuses, too, are opening their space to the community. Solid, middle-class, in the predominantly Maharashtrian Vile Parle (E), Sathaye College’s auditorium will host theater group, Q Knit’s Hijda Play on January 31.

Principal Kavita Rege said while the college is considered traditional in its approach, they are trying to break this stereotype.

“This is the first time that our college auditorium is playing host for a play on transgender issues. While the college is not directly organizing the event, we want our students to be more sensitized and aware about the LGBT community. We also had a five-day workshop on gender sensitisation for our students recently,” she said, proving that the rainbow is extending its arc over Mumbai.

A look at Queer pride month venues
>> Queer movie screening at the Hive, Khar
>> Trivia and quiz competition at Three Wise Men, Santacruz
>> Queer Premier League at Willingdon ground, Santacruz
>> Kite flying at Juhu beach
>> Play-Ideas to wear with Pride at IIT Bombay, Powai
>> Hijda play at Sathaye College, Vile parle

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