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Sunday, January 23, 2011

MUMBAI's LGBT pride goes mainstream


MUMBAI: The city's queer community is out and about. Even as voices of dissent get louder, the pride is growing and reaching out to the larger milieu for acceptance and equal rights.

What used to be a one-day demonstration and appeal for justice till about three years ago has now broadened into the Queer Azaadi movement, a week of festivities meant not merely for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

The Queer Azaadi Mumbai Pride Week began on Saturday with the screening of a documentary on human rights. From Sunday, the QAM Mela promises seven days of celebration of what sets the community apart, without compromising the underlining statement-the LGBT people are as much a part of the society
as others.

"The premise of the mela is from the mainstream, but from a queer perspective. It's as much a celebratory event as it is an effort to make others understand who we are," said Shobhna S Kumar, director, Queer Ink.

"We will feature books on several issues and showcase people from the community. The idea is to help others see that we are no different. It's to tell the mainstream society that they can come and talk to us, before they start hating us," Kumar added.

Despite winning the battle against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in the Delhi high court, the clamour for anti-LGBT laws has grown even as we fight for our rights in the Supreme Court," said Pallav Patankar, director, HIV programme, Humsafar Trust.

"The aim is to mobilize members of the community, allay the fear of their own sexuality. At the same time, we also plan to sensitize the non-LGBT members of the society towards the issue," Patankar said.

"We continue to face discrimination. Decriminalization of sexual minorities is the first step. We can then think of legislation against discrimination. We have been speaking to schools, colleges, corporates and other institutions on human rights," Patankar added.

The line up of events and activities includes reading of the book, 'Pink Sheep' by author Mahesh Natarajan on January 25 at Azaad Bazaar, Bandra (W). The book delves into relationships, love, confusion and all other emotions that make one human.

Through the Kashish short film screening, the organizers will highlight the plight of many a member of the queer community. This is another event through which they aim to help both people from the mainstream as well a the LGBT community to come to terms with alternate sexuality
and lives.

Those interested in theatre can look forward to the reading of Ek Madhav Baug, a Marathi play translated in Hindi, at SNDT, Juhu. Written by the late Chetan Datar, the play is about a son coming out to his mother. It looks at both his apprehensions and his mother's response. There is also a surprise for the public, with Flash Mobs - a theatre group that will stage skits at various open spaces in the city.

Besides, one can also indulge in some shopping therapy, or get a 'rainbow makeover'. And there are prizes to be won every day. The Mela leads up to the pride march on January 29
from August Kranti Maidan to Girgaum Chowpatty.

Both Patankar and Kumar are members of the collective of organizations across Mumbai, working for the rights of the LGBT community. Called the Queer Azaadi Collective, they are the men and women who have jointly been holding pride marches and events to increase awareness of as well as sensitivity towards the community members.

With the QAM Mela, Mumbai's pride is showing, in all its rainbow hues. 


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