This article originally appeared on VICE India
In 2012, the city of Patna, in Bihar, saw its first ever pride parade. Merely 20 people attended it. But yesterday, on July 14—also the International Non-Binary People’s Day—about 500 people marched through its streets as part of the Bihar Pride Parade, holding a 500-meter-long Transgender Pride Flag.
Last year, the Indian queer movement reached a landmark momentum, when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code—which used to criminalise gay sex—was read down. But still, the Bihar Pride Parade had to swap the usage of the rainbow pride flag—one that has served as a rallying call and symbol of unity for the LGBTQ+ community around the world—for the Transgender Pride Flag. “That’s the only one we got permission for,” Patna-based artist Surabhi Suman, who prefers going by the name of ‘Indian Awwrat’, told VICE. “There are many active political groups that do not support it [queer visibility].”
In a city like Patna, where the trans community has long been associated with local traditions such as launda naach—a controversial art form in parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where trans women or effeminate men dance to entertain men and are often exposed to violence, sexual assaults, and STDs—LGBTQ conversations are hard to come by.
Here, women and Dalit groups often serve as a way of getting support for the queer community, a fact represented by the liberal imagery of Babasaheb Ambedkar—independent India's first law minister and Dalit icon—on the banners at the parade. “While transgenders are the most visible and mobilising them is easier, people do not really understand the LGBT community here, who are often laughed at,” said Indian Awwrat. “The problem is that people, either in pursuit of success or once they’ve got it, go away from Bihar. So, the state stays the way it was centuries ago. But we are trying to stay here and take [the movement] forward to bring it in line with the rest of the world.”
Here are some of the snapshots from the pride march taking place in one of the many cities in India where social acceptance lags far behind legal sanction.
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