Unleashing the Rainbow from behind the Closet
Article 19, the cultural fest of the School of Communication(SOC), named after article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which protects the freedom of expression and speech, has always tried to provide a platform for constructive dialogue regarding difficult topics. This effort led to the conception of the Ally March, an event preceding the fest, where college students take to the streets in an effort to bring awareness about the need for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. The event, which was started just a year ago, has already become quite a phenomenon, with students from across the colleges in Manipal in attendance.
The march, which took place on Sunday, kicked off at SOC, and went past the campuses of MIT and WGSHA before culminating at End Point Road. Quirky slogans like “One, two, three, four! Open up the closet door! Five, six, seven, eight! Don’t assume your kids are straight,” and “Queer, bi, trans, or gay, everything is A-Okay,” were chanted by the participants as they led the march towards greater awareness.
Senior members of ‘The Queer and Ally Network’, a LGBTQ+ student support group based in Manipal, narrated personal stories regarding their struggles and inspired the public towards a more equal world. Members of the public were also encouraged to share their experiences. As one of the organisers, Shobhana Mohanty explained, “The event isn’t a protest against any specific laws, it’s just an effort to generate awareness for the LGBTQ+ community, and to assure the members of the same- that it is okay to step out of the closet.” She went on to say, “As a firm believer of love and let love, it is encouraging to see that India is finally moving towards the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, and I’m glad that the Article 19 team was able to contribute to the cause.”
Despite a general trend towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, the year 2017 has demonstrated that there is still a long way to go. The roundups and torture of queer people in Chechnya, anti-gay witch hunts in Egypt and Indonesia, and the closure of queer-friendly medical centers in Tanzania paint a sordid picture of the community’s present. The concerted efforts by the Trump presidency to revoke equality laws in the United States, even hint at a possible regression in the progress made by the community in the West. It is in the light of these global realities that displays of solidarity and support, such as the Ally March, gain immense significance.