Queer Pride Parade: Act of Subverting Norms of Public Space

The public space is by and large, patriarchal and hetero-normative. Norms are the implicit “normal” for the majority, and it is always this majority that determines what is “transgressive” and what is not “transgressive” in the society.


Image from Pride Parade in Chennai, 2018.

The majority also conducts policing of what is acceptable and in-acceptable in the society. Now that the majority being overwhelmingly male dominated and heterosexual dominated, the norms even in the society are dictated by men and heterosexuals. If the majority is vocally homophobic, for instance the Polish population has been majorly orthodox and homophobic, that is the reason a far right anti-gay presidential candidate, Andrzej Duda, is garnering support from the public. On the other hand if the majority is vocally queer friendly, for instance the Kiwis, then that reflects in the legislation and the politics of the country. New Zealand has been one of the most progressive and LGBTQ+ friendly countries. Its president, Jacinda Ardern, is a major supportor of queer rights, and even a few openly queer politicians had been elected to New Zealand’s parliament.

Since the majority carves out the norms in the society, it is also the majority that carves out the norms in the public spaces. Therefore, it would not be surprising if the social space that we speak of, is heteronormative and patriarchal, and even oppressive if we gauge it more critically. For ages, homosexuality has been seen as a sin, and homosexuals have been ostracized. The Bible had encapsulated the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, which pointed towards how grievously sinful sodomy was. Then, the Victorian society had made conservative rules regarding "gender" and its expression. Micheal Foucault in his book, The History of Sexuality (spanning over four volumes), had said that the only place where the fluidity of gender and gender expression was still practiced in England, during the Victorian era, was the “theatre”. The British empire and the other western empires had conquered the rest of the world by then, and that meant they had imposed such ideologies and restrictions onto their subjects. India also had faced this blatant imposition, whose effect scar the oppressed gender and sexual minority community in our country even today.

The public space is an obvious sphere where the effect of that past blatant imposition still surfaces from time to time. Although, the machinery, Section 377, has been read down, but the essence or the years of generational and cognitive learning of hating deviant sexuality and gender, has not been dealt with yet. And so therefore, the instances of - catcalling, mental harassment and also extreme cases of rapes and murders - are still far from getting wiped out. And so therefore, the public space is still by and large violent towards the queer community.

However, when “pride parade” happens, the queer community unleashes out a language and a series of actions that subvert the norms in the public space, which are dictated by men and heterosexual individuals. This also occurs at a magnitude that is ample to postulate even a momentary turning of the social microcosm of the place upside down. Queer people assert power, voice and demand at that place where they are not otherwise supposed to. Thus, I say indeed this "subversion" is the most intriguing aspect of a pride parade.

In pride parade, queer people also express themselves in a way they are not otherwise supposed to. They dress extravagantly in a self, gender and sexuality affirming way. They touch and hold each other in manners they are not otherwise supposed to, in the oppressive and heteronormative society. They shout slogans and flaunt banners that they are not otherwise supposed to, in the oppressive and heteronomative society. They shower love on each other in manners they are not otherwise supposed to, in the oppressive and heteronormative society. Therefore, the language of expressing, of asserting, of touching, of loving, and of determining is subversive. It is powerful. For the people outside of that momentary microcosm this can appear to be “transgressive”. But for the queer community, this language and series of actions are “subversive”. They are “positive” for the "in-group", victorious and rebellious.

In India, the first ever parade was held in Kolkata in 1999. And it was only attended by about fifteen people. Since then, different cities have seen pride parades being organised yearly. Delhi saw the first pride parade in 2008, Bangalore saw the first pride parade in 2008, the North-East saw its first set of parades in 2014, and so forth. Today, pride parades have become an important symbolism for the queer community in India; they are a symbolism of power and determination of the "community" - that may utter if given a chance, "Maybe in just one of us the people may not see the power, but in all of us together they definitely can". Like elsewhere in the world, the queer community in India eagerly waits for their respective parades every year. Some may argue that the political essence of the pride is degrading gradually, but one may still find re-assurance in one thing: the subversive nature of pride parade is a political statement by itself that shall never perish.

0 comments