The Indian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement is truly a rainbow of many fascinating hues. This movement is gradually bringing to light, documenting and representing the rich diversity of genders and sexualities that have existed in our cultures since thousands of years. It is advocating that this diversity should be respected and discrimination against LGBT people should be stopped.
As an organized political movement the Indian LGBT movement is still quite young, having taken its first steps only in the early 1990s. However, it is not as if the movement started overnight. Rather it was a result of several visible and invisible developments taking place over the years in the world and Indian contexts.
Kolkata showed the way
Not many know that the first Rainbow Pride parade in India had taken off in Kolkata in 1999. Fourteen years hence, activists and LGBT members have grown in number, the forum bigger and the Pride celebrations have become grander. Some well known faces that walked through the roads included Ashok Row Kavi, Nitin Karani, Pawan Dhall, Owais Khan and Rafique-Ul-Haque-Dowjah-Ranjan.
"The first such protest in the country inspired similar walks in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Patna and has come to symbolize the rights movement of India's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other sexual minority communities," the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival team told Team M3.tv.
The first Pride March in India, 1999
A multicultural milieu
"Kolkata has always been about tolerance and celebration of liberty. Over these two decades of the movement, several wings of civil society, including academia, artist community, human rights workers and the media have been a beacon of support towards reaching out and lending courage to the voice for equal rights," they added.
"People are extremely biased against LGBT groups due to their fear of the unknown. Also, the taboo and myths surrounding sexuality result in more discrimination. We want to change this mindset, we want to appeal to the society's better senses," said Pawan Dhall, who was part of the 1999 walk and is now a key organizer of the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival.