By Asif Kalam
This Friday, Kozhikode will play host to the 7th Kerala Queer Pride March. The celebrations leading up to the Pride March have already painted the town rainbow at Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, and the LGBTQ community has more reason than ever to celebrate this year’s march, as it comes at a time when their voices are slowly but surely gaining the support of the public and the government.
Last Sunday, a crowd gathered in a joyous celebration of diversity, acceptance and pride in Kerala’s capital for the Trivandrum Queer Pride Fest. “Writers typically describe the beauty of the female body. Transgender bodies are also beautiful, male bodies are also beautiful, one must be able to see the beauty of all bodies,” said Sheethal Shyam, a prominent trans rights activist at the fest, where trans people and their friends sang, danced, walked the ramp, and claimed their rights to the spaces that not long ago shunned them.
The Trivandrum Queer Pride Fest was organised by the cultural community Manaveeyam Theruvorakoottam in association with LGBTQ groups across the state as a curtain-raiser to the Kerala Queer Pride March. Last year, it was reported that around 200 people attended the 6th Kerala Queer Pride March. We heard from people who attended the fest on Sunday that with large-scale participation from the public, the turnout easily crossed a thousand. The crowd that gathered brought the thoroughfare at Manaveeyam Veedhi, Thiruvananthapuram’s culture boulevard, to a halt.
At the fest, artist and transgender rights activist Kalki Subrahmaniam criticised the glaring lack of sexuality and gender education in Kerala, saying, “When I first came to Kerala in 2007, I was looked at like an alien. The problem is that we are not talking about gender identities and related issues in our education system. This has led to sexual minorities being at the receiving end of hatred, bullying and even rape. We are rejected by our families and society, forcing us into begging and sex work. Change can be brought about only through education. Our women are molested, transgender people are subjected to violence, rape, hatred, bullying, teasing, it is all because we don’t have an understanding, we don’t have a proper education on gender and sexuality.”
— aby (@abytharakan) August 7, 2016
Two books about transgenders authored by Resmi G and Anilkumar KS, Vimatha Laingikatha: Charithram, Siddhantham, Rashtreeyam (Rebel Sexuality: History, Theory, Politics) and Transgender: Charithram, Samskaram, Prathinidhanam (Transgender: History, Culture, Representation), were released at the fest.
The first major queer event after Kerala’s historic unveiling of its transgender policy, the fest saw participation from the government, a first in the state. Kerala Minister for Electricity Kadakampally Surendran assured the gathering that the government would treat sexual minorities as equal to everyone else in the society.
It has been a momentous couple of years for the LGBTQ community in Kerala. Last year in June, Kerala became the first state in the country to unveil a transgender policy (the rights group Sangama was instrumental in its drafting). Last month, the new LDF government in its first budget announced pensions for transgender people aged above 60 years. Of course, despite all these triumphs, Kerala has not suddenly transformed into a transgender-friendly place. Ironically, just a week prior to the budget announcement, two trans people were brutally assaulted by the police in Kochi. In a state where homophobic, transphobic, and misogynist attitudes run deep despite the progress made on other fronts, every move that asserts the rights of sexual minorities is reason for celebration.
We can’t wait for the 7th Kerala Queer Pride March to begin in Kozhikode on the 12th August. If you happen to be in Kozhikode, head to the beach around 2 pm and join in! And keep an eye on the Queerala Facebook page for updates.