Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride March

5 comments

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Sreejith K Soman

Ever since I returned to Kochi after my five years in Mumbai, I am sensing a different vibe from the current generation - a vibe of open-mindedness, of cosmopolitanism and of breaking away from the conservative shackles exhibited by the previous generations. That feeling was proved true when almost 500 people gathered in Kochi last Saturday to march for the 5th Kerala Queer Pride.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

A major chunk of the participants were straight supporters who feel strongly for the LGBT rights cause. Varkey Parakal, a class 12 student, feels that this is a human rights cause as well. "I have always been a supporter for causes regarding human rights and the LGBT rights are not any different." They were also not worried about getting labeled as gay while supporting the cause. There were straight supporters who held placards that shouted, ‘Happy Being Gay.’ Mohini Mohandas, another class 12 student says, “I don’t mind being called lesbian, bisexual etc. Because it would be like a person getting my age wrong - something harmless and correctable.”

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

The pride march is also a group therapy of sorts for the gay people and the watching public, opines Kishor Kumar, a software engineer and writer who had come all the way from Calicut - a few districts north of Kochi. “Most members of the LGBT community live in constant fear and shame; this is a chance for them to witness the support and acceptance showered by the public.”

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai
The Kochi queer pride march had many firsts to it. 

- This was the first time a queer pride happened in Kochi. Previous editions were held in the neighbouring district of Thrissur and once in Calicut.
- This was the first queer pride that was held in Kerala after the Supreme Court struck down the earlier Delhi High Court verdict which had decriminalized non-penile-vaginal sexual acts.
- This was the first pride march in Kerala which saw people, barring one or two, marching without any mask.
- Kerala queer prides started happening after the High Court verdict, hence all the previous versions were celebrations of sorts. This time, now with the Supreme Court verdict, the pride also had the flavour of protest - demanding to do away with the Section 377 law.
- The Kochi queer pride also saw the highest participation so far compared to any of the previous Kerala queer pride editions.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

The pride march was flagged off by the celebrity and TV personality, Ranjini Haridas, who had spoken passionately in favour of the LGBT community in a news interview at the time of the Supreme Court verdict. Before the flag off, she addressed the gathering saying, "As a woman I feel safer in the company of people from the LGBT community. They are some of the most passionate, talented and honest people I know." In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, she further adds, "We are brought up in a society where heterosexual relations are a norm and anything else is considered immoral. However, if you ask anyone in the LGBT community, they will tell you it's not really a choice, that they were born this way."

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Celebrity and TV Personality, Ranjini Haridas | Photography by Ajay Paul

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Ranjini Haridas with Kerala Queer Pride participants | 
Photography by Sreejith K Soman

By now the monsoon clouds were gathering fast, darkening the sky. But it felt like even the nature was supporting the cause - throughout the 90 minute walk, not even a drop of rain tried to interrupt us. From the premises of the Kerala High Court, the march commenced with a group of Harleys leading the way. A line of police accompanying on one side to control the participants and traffic, the procession inched forward shouting slogans - “My Body My Right!”, “Section 377 Down Down!” While the band played popular Malayalam and Hindi songs, some participants danced to the tunes, some waved the rainbow flags and colourful balloons; some held the placards with pro-LGBT messages – a visual which was a first for the Kochi public, attracting many curious onlookers. The pride walk finally culminated at the Rajendra Maidan, post which the public meeting and cultural performances were held at the nearby Mahrajas College hall.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
The Head of Alternative Law Forum, Arvind Narain (on the right, holding the flag) | Photography by Surjith S Pai

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
The transgender rights activist, Kalki Subramaniam | Photography by Surjith S Pai

The fifth Kerala Queer Pride march was organized by Queer Pride Keralam – a coalition of approximately 30 organizations working on art, culture, social, human rights and environmental issues. Apart from Ranjini Haridas, this year’s march saw the presence of well-known personalities such as Kalki Subramaniam - the transgender rights activist from Chennai, Shahabaz Aman – the Malayalam playback singer, Rekha Raj – the Dalit rights activist and Arvind Narain – one of the prominent lawyers fighting the Section 377 case in the Supreme Court and the Head of Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore. A memorandum aimed to be presented to the Kerala government, which puts forward the many urgent needs of sexuality minorities of Kerala, was also signed by hundreds of people who attended the public meeting.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Ajay Paul

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

To see more photos of the Kochi pride march, click here.

Check out these related posts too!
Why It Is Important For Parents To Tell Their Kids To Be Gay Friendly
My First March For Equality
Bangalore Gay Pride March Montage By Amar Mitra

  • Gay bodhi August 2, 2014 at 12:08 AM
     

    I am an avid reader of your blog and really love your posts. This post is no different. Don't you think that Renjini Haridas was a bad choice for publicizing the event? My heterosexual friends are teasing me saying that you guys got only that outspoken lady for the inauguration. They mean it jokingly but when we go through the comments of that news-report from Manorama channel, most of the people are responding against Renjini. I also posted about this, Please go through my blog too, if you have time.
    http://veiledlife.blogspot.in/2014/07/queer-pride-kerala-india-july-26-2014.html

  • Crazy Sam August 2, 2014 at 8:24 AM
     

    Gay Bodhi, I would say Ranjini Haridas was the perfect choice for the gay pride. She is outspoken about many issues, so what? If you have checked the YouTube link given in the article, you must have heard the way she supported LGBT community when the Supreme Court verdict came out. Where are the rest of the Malayalee celebs. They are afraid that it would tarnish their image if they support the LGBT cause.

    And as for malayalee heterosexual men teasing her, it is a different matter altogether. They are just plain scared that a woman is not at all concerned about what the rest of the society thinks, a woman is doing what she thinks is right without any qualms, who doesn't care a hoot about the societal restrictions that usually gets imposed on them (by men). In fact, she represents a woman who is everything against what a patriarchal society like Kerala wants. And all these teasing, trolls and comments against Ranjini are just their desperate attempts to prove their manhood!

    You should check this well written article to understand a Malayalee man's psyche - 'What the internet gave the Kerala man. (Apart from porn.)'

  • Indie-underground-Gay August 26, 2014 at 2:01 AM
     

    Brilliant photographs!

  • jojo john December 2, 2014 at 11:59 AM
     

    How could i join next queer pride? do kochi has any queer association or website?

  • Crazy Sam March 23, 2015 at 10:10 PM
     

    Jojo, you can follow this facebook page to know updates regarding Kerala LGBT - Queerala.


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