On 30th June 2019, the Langs Garden Road in Pudupet was covered in colours, parai beats and laughter as Chennai held its 11th Pride March. People from all walks of life came together to assert and celebrate their sexual and gender identities. This year was particularly gleeful and exuberant as this was the first march since the partial scrapping of Section 377, i.e. the first year since 2.5 million people had their identities recognised and decriminalised by the State for the second time.
The march started at Adithanar Road Junction – near the famous Chitra Theatre – and went on for close to a kilometre. For the first few years of Chennai Pride, the venue used to be Marina Beach. This was later changed to Elliot’s Beach and subsequently to Rajarathinam Stadium, Egmore, as that’s the place designated for protest marches – and that’s what the Tamil Nadu government recognises Chennai Pride as. This year too, the venue was supposed to be Rajarathinam Stadium but a day before the march it was changed to a spot about a kilometre away.
June being the Pride month, the march was preceded by month long Pride-related activities ranging from LGBTIQ mental health workshops, anti-bullying seminars and sensitisation events to spoken word evenings, several cultural nights and placard making events.
The Chennai Rainbow Self-Respect Pride marches have always made their inclusivity and intersectionality well-known. This year was no different. Amid chants of “I’m gay, that’s okay. I’m lesbian, that’s okay. I’m trans, that’s okay. I’m bi, that’s okay.”, people walked around with placards and posters of Ambedkar and Periyar. There were placards proclaiming “Queers Against Saffron”, “Queers Against Fascism”, “Sanghigalai Edhirkira Queergal” (Queers Against Sanghis), “Kill Caste, Kill Kyriarchy, Kill Fascism” and so on.
The march progresses through the slum settlements next to the Cooum river, which has led to questions about the venue for years, as to why it’s not a less “lower class” place. To see class discrimination during an event as glorious and inclusive as Chennai Pride, is deeply disheartening. Every year, little children from the neighbourhood join the parade waving flags that other marchers give them, getting their faces painted rainbow and dancing to the beats.
The marchers had on the most stunning rainbow ensembles and makeup. From rainbow eyeshadow and rainbow hair to rainbow sarees and rainbow earrings, Pudupet was a celebration of colours on Sunday. Even pets were found wearing rainbow!
The march concluded near a stage that was set up for Pride performances. Eminent queer personalities such as Malini Jeevarathnam (filmmaker), Jaya (general manager of Sahodaran) and other fellow marchers talked, read out poetry, sang and danced into the night. Chennai Rainbow Self-Respect Pride 2019 was a truly triumphant end to Pride month.
Photography credits to Aruna Ravi