This is pride month, where inclusivity is celebrated by and for the LGBTQI community. Many cities globally will celebrate by having large marches on the last Sunday of the month. In India, while the pride marches take place later in the year, it is a good moment to reflect upon the inclusion of LGBTQI people in our cities, communities, streets and public spaces.

Cities have always been spaces for marginalised and disadvantaged groups to claim space and rights. The one obvious non-traditional gender category that has and remains visible are eunuchs, who often lay some claim to public space, though often very tenuous as they are also victims of violence. The acceptance of diversity and inclusion for LGBTQI community has been painfully slow in our country.

Politics is also a public space where people have been struggling for inclusion. The 73rd amendment passed in 1992 that mandated 33% reservation for women at the panchayat level, has over the years led to many women learning the ropes and occupying these positions and being visible in public. The 74th amendment has a similar reservation for women in urban local bodies. Similarly, representation of diversity in the political space can have a great impact in bringing about change.

In 2014, the Election Commission of India introduced the third gender as a category that a voter could register as and in the 2019 elections, there were over 40,000 voters registered in the category. There were a few transgender candidates in the recent elections. In 2015, we had the first transgender mayor in Raigarh — Madhu Kinnar — who won by a margin of more than 4,000 votes.

Cities as harbingers of change must lead in this and become more open and accepting of all genders. While over 20 cities in India have been having big pride marches for the past several years, Gurugram had its first one last year. They have also become much bigger with over 5,000 people at the 2018 parade in Delhi last November.

How can we work towards making our cities and communities more accepting of diversity? We hear of cases where landlords and even resident welfare associations are hostile towards single people and migrants. Gurugram is a city where people come from around the country to make their home and no one should feel unwelcome. Public spaces like parks are also hostile sometimes and there have been instances where couples have been targeted not just by the public, but even by the police. Many of the “anti-eveteasing’’ squads end up targeting couples in public spaces. This becomes even more dangerous for LGBTQI people. Public toilets are another area of problems for transgender people, where they are shunned from toilets for men as well as women. While the law may have changed in 2018, we have a long way to go before LGBTQI persons are truly accepted in our communities, cities and workplaces.

But this past month I have also come across some heartening expressions of support in unexpected spaces. One company in Gurugram has changed their logo on the building in Cybercity to rainbow colours. I also saw in the flight magazine of one airline, a full page ad on the issue, inserted by the company themselves. And in another hotel, all the staff were wearing badges proclaiming rainbow colours and love. These examples provide a ray of hope and also show that difference and diversity can be supported in many different ways.

First Published:
Jun 27, 2019 04:27 IST

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