Many participants were unhappy about the change in venue from the Marina to Egmore
Every June, for the past four years, members of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities walked with their heads high by the sands of the Marina, on the occasion of the Chennai rainbow pride march.
But this year, when they were asked to walk from near Rajarathnam Stadium to Langs Garden Road in Egmore instead, many were disappointed.
“There were not many people around, and most of the shops in the vicinity were closed. The whole point of a pride march is to be visible,” said an activist. Many recalled how till last year, passers-by on the Marina would come up to them and ask them questions. “It was an excellent way of creating awareness. This stretch is not even a good road. Most people passing by were on two-wheelers; they just stared at us and left,” he said.
“People come out of the closet with great difficulty, and they seek visibility and the strength inherent in community. By restricting us to a narrow route, that process of coming out has become difficult for many,” he added.
The change in venue did not dampen the enthusiasm of the activists though. While over 350 people participated in the march, the crowd swelled for the cultural event, ‘Naangal’ that marked the end of the event. “The energy with which the community participated in the events underscored the need to conduct them throughout the year,” said L. Ramakrishnan, from the NGO Saathii. The annual pride march also serves as a recognition of LGBT rights, and is one of the events held as part of the pride month, in addition to panel discussions, film festivals, skits and cultural fests.
The venue of the march had to be shifted because police did not give members of the community permission to conduct the rally on the Marina. “They said that as per a recent government order, only health-related rallies could take place at Marina. We are upset because they have permitted anti-drug rallies at the same time,” said another activist.
At the venue, a group of twelve people, who called themselves ‘Members of Christian Fellowship,’ held banners opposing homosexuality and distributed copies of the New Testament. “Homosexuality is the worst sin. We are here to tell these people we love them, but we hate what they are doing. Homosexuality disrupts lives in the whole community and neighbourhood,” said S. Sudhadeep, one of the members of the group.
However, the pride march went on as planned, and members, dressed in colourful attire, carrying balloons, rainbow cards, and placards that said, ‘Respect our difference’, marched along the streets of Egmore. This year, companies such as Accenture and organisations such as British Council came forward to support the event.
One of the star attractions was a duo dressed up as a policeman and a lawyer, drawing attention to key areas of intervention and sensitisation. “We hope for a better venue next time,” said Vikranth Prasanna of Chennai Dost.
The participants also raised many demands, one of which was extending the services of the transgender welfare board to all sexual minorities.
“Most often, parents go for shock treatment when their children admit to being of a sexual minority. All this can be prevented, if there is a facility for counselling,” said T. D. Sivakumar of Nirangal, an NGO that works with sexual minorities.