My First Pride
Tiptoeing out of my room on a very hot day in June, trying to not raise suspicion, covering my queer outfit and make-up with a dupatta, proceeding to make a false entry in the register after lying to the guard because of the immense shame that consumed me, I successfully made it to my first pride parade at the age of 20.
I remember scrolling through the internet, miserably lying in my bed, and reading updates of my friends at pride parades and rallies 3 years ago. They looked happy and confident and fearless. I was happy for them but at the same time, it felt like a big slap in my face. I was envious of them. I felt hurt, confused, agitated, frustrated, unhappy, and alone. I felt sequestered in my queerness. Everything seemed horrifying, the labels, the identities, acceptance, and dealing with internalized guilt and shame. The pride felt like a futile distant dream to me.
The next few years elapsed and along with them I painfully neglected more Pride celebrations. I moved away from my parents, to a different state for university. I moved out of a small, conservative town to a city where I unapologetically allowed myself to question my identity. I struggled a lot with the questioning phase because of the stigma, queerphobia, shame, and comphet surrounding being me so much so that I felt uncomfortable accepting that I was queer. There was a turmoil of emotions inside the mind of a closeted, questioning queer. The dysmorphia surfaced and it stayed with me for a very long time. It became convenient for me to refrain from questioning and just continue living as a cis-het 18-year-old. It was sad, but it validated my existence.
Thankfully, my friends from the community constantly reassured me, supported me, and made me feel seen and heard. They recognized my denial as I recognized theirs. As I progressed in my questioning journey, I realized that Pride cannot be condensed into labels or definitive identities. It is fluid and boundless of any boundaries and representative of various relationship dynamics and complexity of different identities and intersects in every possible way with the existence alone of human beings.
June 2022, I remember scrolling through the internet, still miserably lying in my bed, nothing had changed except the fact that I was now a rebellious, confident, questioning, queer in her late-teenage years. I messaged my queer friends and asked them if any pride celebrations were happening in the city. Yes. There was. Sanman Yatra. A pride parade organized by Vikalp
Women’s Group Vadodara and Foram Foundation Vadodara. My friends and I attended the Pride parade and it changed me.
Celebrating Pride with queer people like me felt like a warm hug. It changed the way I perceive my queerness. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made in the two decades that I've somehow managed to magically survive. There is something about being surrounded by overdressed, loud, traumatized but ‘smiling through the pain', sweaty queers raiding the streets and fazing the locals on a hot weekend in June. When I nervously went there, I barely knew one person, Ananya, but I returned home with the dupatta neatly folded in my bag, blatantly displaying a poster that said “Being straight is just a phase,” body covered in scents of hundreds of fellow queers, memories full of love and triumph.
People from nearby cities also came to show their support for the celebration and protest. Colors, chants, impeccable fashion, and love were all I could see. Ananya introduced me to a bunch of her friends and we immediately fell into a vicious cycle of complimenting each other. I did not feel socially anxious at pride despite suffering from social anxiety. We waved the huge flag, danced and sang, and chanted before embarking upon the journey. We marched with the dhols across the city under the huge flag. It shielded us. We shoved our posters into the locals' faces, cheer-varied voices that spoke for and about each other, fearlessly kissed under the flag, and walked with pride across the city. After reaching the destination and marching for a couple of hours, we interacted with each other and recognized the ones who fought for us. I no longer felt alone. I felt at peace and seen and acknowledged. I felt happy and confident. I felt like myself for the first time. I didn’t feel the need to prove my identity. I realize that I am a greatly privileged, upper-middle-class, English-speaking, educated queer to be able to attend pride. I, with my fellow queer, have taken the route of acceptance together. Pride is not only a means of finding shelter and belonging within the community anymore but demanding socio-political recognition. There are stories everywhere, against every overpowering societal norm and legal system, it reminds me to keep searching for them. So many found homes in this parade, and so many felt seen and heard. Their smiles will forever be imprinted in my mind. Just like Pride, this parade will always be a part of me.
Written by Charmy Savla
Edited by Priyam Kusundal