By Maya Bhardwaj and Aprajita Pandey
How do we know love is love? Just ask our organizer Aprajita.
While Aprajita was prepping for presenting a paper on democratic spaces for women at the Indian Association for Women’s Studies in Guwuhati, and after hearing about upcoming Queer Pride parades in Mumbai and Delhi, she wondered: why isn’t something like this happening in Guwuhati?
Organizing is about strategizing for action – so Aprajita jumped in. She and a core team reached out to the LGBTQ community and allies, pitching the idea of a Queer Pride Parade for the Northeast in February. Knowing they’d need to fund the event, they crowdsourced – donations came from individuals in Delhi, Mumbai, and elsewhere, all based on personal contacts and the story of hope and love that the organizers told. Our organizers were determined that it would be a grassroots event – so while they partnered with organizations like the Delhi Queer Pride Committee and many LGBTQ groups in Meghalaya, Assam, and Shillong, the event was one of people. Activists, allies, LGBTQ community leaders and members, college students and youth, social scientists and supportive policemen all popularized the event via word of mouth and on social media, and pledged to volunteer for what they believed in: the repeal of 377, equal love, and people powering change.
On the day of the Parade, our organizers saw massive coalitions solidifying between queer rights organizations and leaders, and were excited about strong press coverage. While some groups turned out to protest the Parade, the mood was one of positive dialogue and communication. Attendees wore rainbows, held posters, wrote poetry, danced in the street, and spoke with the community and the police against the hatred of the Section 377 decision. Aprajita told us that instead of feeling defeat, the Parade “capitalized on the anger, frustration, and discontent from the Supreme Court’s decision – we rallied with the press and the people to open channels of communication” and declare support for all LGBTQ people in the Northeast, all over India, and worldwide.
Reflecting on the event, Aprajita shared her biggest learning: the massive power we can wield when we come together. “It was a challenge to keep the power dynamics in the organization in line – but we used our snowflake model to make sure that rather than having one leader or a leaderless organization, that we distributed responsibility and ownership. That way, on the day of, thanks to the support of countless allies, attendees, and supportive police and passers-by, the mood was overwhelmingly one of joy. We were happy, full of energy and strength to come out in public. We were fresh, and we were alive.”