The year was 2009. Transgender activist Kalki Subramaniam, who had just founded the Sahodari Foundation Centre for Education, Arts and Media, put together a Pride Parade in Coimbatore. “But there were only five participants,” she recalls.
Ten years later, the city is ready for yet another Pride Parade, only, this time, Kalki is sure the city will support it with open arms. Coimbatore will celebrate Pride Month in August, with Sahodari organising the Coimbatore Rainbow Pride Festival. The festival includes film screenings, discussions on queer rights, art shows and workshops, and poetry readings spread across various venues in the city, and is open for anyone interested.
“A lot has happened over the past decade with regard to awareness about the LGBTQI community in Coimbatore,” says Kalki. “Today, several educational institutions here are willing to partner with us and play hosts for our events.” Kalki feels that apart from the big cities, it is important for the smaller ones too to be sensitised about LGBTQI rights.
“Which is why I chose Coimbatore,” she says. “It is a fast-growing city that’s becoming progressive in terms of people from the community coming out,” she says, adding, “But it is important that they are not bullied. People need to realise that it’s okay to be gay or lesbian or transgender; we need to respect each other’s space. A lot of our events are happening at educational institutions so that youngsters are sensitised.”
The Coimbatore Rainbow Pride Festival started on July 25 with art exhibition Shut Up! featuring Kalki’s art work and handwritten stories of pain by transgender people. On August 10, the Festival will host a discussion on the lives of refugees from the LGBTQI community.
“This is an important issue, one which hasn’t been spoken about much,” says Kalki. “Transgender people themselves are refugees in their own country,” she feels. “They never stay rooted to one place since they are forced to migrate for work or find a support system.” Art work from Shut Up! will also be displayed at the venue, Park College of Engineering and Technology.
The Queer Talent Show is set to happen on August 15, where people from the community will get a minute to perform on stage. The Coimbatore Rainbow Pride Festival will culminate with a Pride Parade on August 24. On August 19 and 20, Kalki has planned a fun activity involving the making of flags, banners, and stickers for the parade. “Anyone can join in.”
For Kalki, holding such a festival in Coimbatore is like coming full circle. For, the city formed the base for her activism during her initial years. “A decade or so ago, we were talking about sensitising people to the existence of our community. And now, we’re talking about our rights. We’ve come a long way,” she smiles. “Although this Pride Parade is actually the second such event in the city, it is, in spirit, the first Pride Parade in Coimbatore, one that we hope to make as colourful as possible.”
The Coimbatore Rainbow Pride Festival is open to all. For details, call 7639741916, visit sahodari.org.