There are around 21 LGBTQ+ parades that take place through the course of the year in India. Chennai celebrates its pride parade on the last Sunday of every June. They have been at it since the year 2009, much before the laws were even acknowledging the existence of the community.
The Chennai Pride Parade is the only parade to coincide with the global Pride Month of June. This year, the Pride March was on Sunday, 30th June.
The parade is under the banner of Tamil Nadu Rainbow Coalition. Until 2013, known as Chennai Rainbow Coalition. The coalition is a collective of LGBT individuals, supporters, and organizations working on human rights and healthcare facilities for the LGBTQ+ community.
Every year, the Pride March is first met with a month-long series of events by NGO’s and organizations. They try to increase awareness and support for the LGBTQ community. These events include panel discussions, film screenings and cultural performances.
The Chennai Vaanavil Suyamariyadhai Perani also known as Chennai Rainbow Self-Respect March; is known for being inter-sectional in nature as it addresses issues with multiple axes such as caste, class, religion coupled with gender discrimination.
The march initially took place at the Marina Beach from 2009 to 2011. Then Elliot’s Beach in Besant Nagar in 2012.
However, since 2013, the venue has been Egmore, beginning at Rajarathinam Stadium.
In 2009, the first-ever Chennai based Pride March took place. It was held on the 28th of June and was comparatively a smaller crowd. The march slogan was taken from the words of Tamil poet Bharatiyar: “Hues may vary, but humanity does not”. Tamil: வண்ணங்கள வேற்றுமைப்பட்டால், அதில் மானுடர் வேற்றுமையில்லை. The march was demanding that parents of the LGBT youth and healthcare would put a stop to inhumane practices like ‘conversion therapy’.
Since this was the first parade, the police were skeptical of granting permission for the march. Permission was only given when Ms. Kanimozhi, aDMK politician, began involving herself. She was helping the start of the Transgender Welfare Board in the state. There were prominent figures from the community such as Kalki Subramaniam, a trans woman who runs the Sahodari Foundation and the TV anchor Rose Venkatesan, also a trans woman.
Through the years, they brought up awareness on a multitude of aspects including HIV, bigotry, violence against the community, welfare, healthcare. They also celebrate the abolishment of Section 377.
This year commemorates the largest number of participants with well over 500-600 people taking to the streets. Orinam held the pride this year. Orinam is a volunteer-based collective of LGBTIQA+ people that works to create visibility of alternative sexualities along with other allied organizations.
There is no official data on the LGBT population in India. However, the government of India has sent figures to the Supreme Court in 2012 which state that there were about 2.5 million gay people in India. These figures are only based on those individuals who’ve openly disclosed their sexuality to the Ministry of Health. The actual figures may be much higher on account of individuals who have concealed their identity, in fear of discrimination.
“The child is lucky to have a mother like her who brought her here to witness this walk. The child will grow up to think this is normal and the future generation will be far more accepting than the current”. A fellow walker said this about a mother and her daughter. This shows the hope the current generation has from the future.