by Khushi S Mathur
Every year during June, people come together to celebrate the LGBTQ+ Pride Month in different parts of the world. This time of the year brings with it colourful parades and festivity, but along with that the pride month also represents something deeper for the members of this marginalized community which comprises of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual folk across societies.
Back in June 1969 the people of New York City were rendered baffled by the prejudiced actions of the police who raided a gay club and violently harassed the customers and those who tried to help them. This incident wasn’t an isolated one, but rather was a part of a trend wherein the cops targeted gay clubs and were rather discriminatory against them. This incident sparked outrage amongst the people and they formed organizations, held processions and demonstrations across the city to rally for the rights of the gay people. The people in several American cities celebrated their first pride month the very next year to commemorate the one year anniversary of the riots that had taken place the previous year, and thus this beautiful tradition was born. This rather small movement sparked a larger movement for the basic rights of the LGBT community not only in America but across the world, albeit at an alarmingly slow pace.
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June 2019 is proving to be extra special for the people of India as this year they celebrate their first pride month since the decriminalization of the LGBTQ+ community by the Supreme Court in September 2018. Major cities like Mumbai, Pune and Delhi are expected to observe several events highlighting LGBT pride. Over the years the banner of LGBT has subsumed the issues faced by the people of other genders and sexual orientations and has grown to become one of the most diverse yet united communities. But unfortunately this is also one of the most targeted communities in the world, with widespread prejudices, homophobia, transphobia, fear and blatant disrespect for these people.
To get a better sense of what the pride month signifies, we need to understand what the term ‘pride’ represents. As a marginalized group, the LGBT+ people have struggled with the lack of societal acceptance and of self affirmation for decades. They have to deal with bullying, harassment, and prejudices on daily basis and this prevents them from being their true self. Pride is a stance against discrimination and violence which specifically targets LGBT+ people, and is a statement which debunks all the stigmas which contribute to shame around the LGBT+. As opposed to this sense of shame, pride is an expression which allows everyone to embrace their individualities and for them to come together to support others who are just like them.
The pride month features parades, marches, educational drives and even parties to spread awareness about the LGBT+ people, their rights, and their struggles. People at these marches are typically seen dressed up in spectacular outfits, carrying banners, dancing and spending their days in gay abandon (pun intended). So while this may seem to be all about pomp and show, in reality these events are truly a celebration of life, love, respect and dignity which are things that all human beings are deserving of. One major aspect of these events is to normalize the usual taboos in our society (like cross dressing or same sex relationships) and remove the social stigma around them.
All of this conversation regarding society, its rigid norms and its interference in private matters brings to mind a line from John Donne’s poem, “The Canonization” which says, “For God’s sake hold your tongue, and let me, love.” The message of these lines is still relevant today. Society needs to let people be who they want to be and love who they want to love. The societal attitude towards LGBTQ+ folk is in desperate need to be re-examined. People need to introspect and question the ignorant notions and misconceptions that they have against any person who doesn’t subscribe to their sanctioned sexual orientation or gender. It’s high time that humanity learns to look beyond labels and instead accept people the way they are.