On Sunday, I spent an amazing few hours sweating my guts out, dragging my injured feet, and walking an unprecedented distance and time, and enjoying it immensely. The occasion was the 13th annual Kolkata Rainbow Pride walk, and I LOVED it! What is a Pride Walk? Simply put, Pride Walks, Pride Parades, and Pride Parties are events that celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, transgender, and intersex identities and cultures. Usually held around June-July every year, to commemorate the Stonewall riots, these are annual events that put these identities “out there” in public. This one began at Triangular Park and ended very close to South City Mall on Prince Anwar Shah Road, after travelling through the Gariahat More, Golpark, Dhakuria, and Jadavpur Thana areas.
People who know me well would be mystified at how I managed to hobble the entire distance without wanting to take a cab home. I wondered about that myself, at the end of the evening, when I crashed into the couch at home and promptly found myself unable to get back up again. Although I felt neither the pain nor the time when the walk was on, lost in the sights, sounds, adrenaline, sloganeering, and sheer enthusiasm, when I finally unwound, every muscle and bone in my back, glutes, legs and feet felt like masses of shivering, shaking, agonizingly painful jelly. But the glow! The wonderful radiant glow I felt, still feel two days later, makes up for my still aching muscles and my damaged foot.
Over the last couple of weeks, as I prepared – excitedly – for the pre-Pride fundraiser, and then for the walk, wheels started to turn in peoples’ heads. Those who know me well, including my family, know perfectly well where I stand on issues of gender and sexual diversity, and why. It was the more recent, and I must say more removed, people who became more and more curious, mystified, and sometimes even uncomfortable. Well, I’m quite the bitch, and I must admit I enjoy being brash, open, frank, and upfront about my opinions, and I LOVE shaking people out of their cozy hetero-patriarchal, unthinking, comfort zones. So I minced no words over the last few weeks, and every time someone asked me what I was doing, or what was new in life, I told them about the walk, and how much I was looking forward to it.
As an almost automatic response, many, many times in the last few weeks, I have been asked “are you a lesbian?” ( or other versions such as “are you one of them”, “are you into that”, “are you that way”, and, from the more articulate ones, “are you bisexual?”). I’m not even going to get started on how presumptuous it is for a comparative stranger to ask something like that … that’s a whole different blog post in the making. The point -- as I told them and as I told the lady from the press who asked something similar during her “interview” while we walked -- is that it is totally immaterial what my personal gender identity, sexual orientation or preference is.
My reason for being at the walk, my reasons for being involved in LGBT activism/outreach for so many years, and my reasons for being there for the community in whichever way I can have to do with numerous things, very few – if any – of which have to do with who I may or may not have loved/slept with in my life. Any number of issues, motives, beliefs drives my engagement with the community, and while they are based on personal opinions, almost none of them are driven solely by personal gender sexual identity. I do what I do, write what I write, post what I post on my blog, Facebook, or elsewhere, because it makes sense to me. And by that I mean it makes sense to the rational, political, egalitarian, liberal, libertarian, individual rights, human rights based belief system and worldview that I subscribe to.
The same way you don’t have to be a tree to be an environmentalist, the way you don’t have to be an endangered species to be a conservationist, the way you don’t have to be a person of color to believe in civil rights or affirmative action, the way you don’t have to be a street dog to be an animal rights activist, that very same way, you do not have to be “like that” to believe in or fight for LGBTIA rights. I have written before, even here (in "why i support LGBT rights", as well as "377 bites the dust" and "377 Update"), about some of my reasons for supporting the community, about how these beliefs are more about equality, human rights, and individual freedoms – the very place where my other beliefs (like women’s rights, civil rights, and all other kinds of equality) comes from. My presence at the Pride Walk was much more a matter of any or all of these stands than about whatever my personal choices, preferences and leanings might be.