Queer culture in India has been gaining visibility and acceptance over the last few years, but it's still a long way from being fully accepted by society at large. There are spaces for queer people to express themselves. Still, they're often segregated from mainstream society--and even within these spaces, there's often a sense of fear that their identities could lead to backlash or violence. Despite facing discrimination and violence, queer individuals and allies have been working tirelessly to promote acceptance and celebrate queer culture in India. In this blog, I’ll talk about some of the most important events, heritage sites, scriptures, and organizations that celebrate queer culture in India.
Pride March: A Pride Parade is the epitome of independence, pride, and love. Pride marches may have begun modestly, with just a few people walking to the streets, but they have now multiplied and become state traditions. Several cities, including Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Lucknow, Kolkata, and Pune Jaipur, frequently host Pride Marches. And now the cities like Jammu, Amritsar, Nagpur, etc. are also celebrating queer culture with the full prompt. Over the years, it has been encouraging to witness the taking off of masks and an increase in the number of friends, parents, and family members who have come out in support of their loved ones.
Koovagam Festival: The Koovagam Festival, held annually in Tamil Nadu, is an 18-day-long festival, dedicated to the Hindu deity Aravan. During this festival, transgender people dress up as brides and marry Aravan. The breaking of the brides' bangles and the mourning of Aravan's death are important parts of this celebration.
Khajuraho Temple: It is a famous Hindu temple complex in Madhya Pradesh, India. Built between 950 and 1050 CE, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The temples are famous for their erotic sculptures which depict overt sexuality between men and women, as well as depicting homosexuality.
Kama Sutra: The Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian text on sexuality, is a source of inspiration for queer people around the world. It explores different sexual positions and has been translated into several languages. The Kama Sutra reminds us of India's liberal sexual history--and how it can inspire us today.
Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival: Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival is the largest LGBTQ+ film festival in India. The event showcases films that explore the LGBTQ+ experience and has been held annually since 2010, with over 100 screenings across Mumbai. The festival attracts a diverse audience including members of the queer community, allies, and film enthusiasts alike.
In addition to these larger events, there are also numerous smaller gatherings and celebrations (Chennai Lit Fest, Queer Azad Mumbai Festival, Delhi Lit. Festival, etc.) organized by queer individuals and allies. These include book clubs, film screenings, art exhibitions, and support groups. These events provide a safe and welcoming space for queer individuals to express themselves and connect with others.
In addition to these events, there are also several organizations working to promote LGBTQIA+ right and visibility in India. These include the Humsafar Trust, the Naz Foundation, the Gay Bombay group, and FirstContact.LGBT, etc. These organizations provide support, resources, advocacy, and safe spaces for queer individuals and allies across the country.
In conclusion, it can be said that queer culture is an essential part of India’s diverse and vibrant cultural landscape. The growing number of LGBTQIA+ events and organizations across the country is a testament to the resilience and determination of queer individuals and allies. By celebrating queer culture, India can move towards a more inclusive and accepting society that celebrates diversity and promotes equality for all.