India as a country has been based on the foundation of culture, beliefs and well….. Religion. When we talk about the terms like LGBTQIA+, Section 377, Pride, etc many eyelids are still raised.
The culture and acceptance of the Pride movement are limited, due to the widespread homophobia that runs across the country. From strong religious beliefs to Colonial implementation of the European Law and general norms on what society perceives to be right and wrong, LGBTQIA+ has borne the brunt of years of discrimination and abuse. But over the year the movement has grown to an extent of commendable appreciation. Especially after the passing of section 377, India as a country has gone through a holistic upliftment by providing a new light for the cause and community.
Going Back In Time….
The first-ever Pride March in India happened in the city of Kolkata in 1999. At that time, it was called the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ with only 15 people in attendance, none of whom were women. During that time, homosexuality was considered a taboo where even the people were shunned to follow the same.
With more LGBTQIA+ marches happening in the years between 2003-2007, the then Prime Minister of India, along with the Supreme Court moved to decriminalise this notion by adding Section 377 eventually. Since then, there has been a steady rise in the overall acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community in the country. Although, it can’t be said that we have achieved 100 per cent inclusivity as we still have a long way to go.
Were Sitcoms The Reason That Normalised The Pride Movement?
A huge factor that weighs into the development is access to the internet and new media. The new age is all about OTT PLatforms, like Netflix, Amazon prime, etc. The Millenials of our country were introduced to many American TV shows like Modern Family, Schitt’s Creek, Will & Grace, Broad Cities and Euphoria and popular movies like Moonlight, Call Me By Your Name, Bohemian Rhapsody, etc explore themes of pride. All these famous sitcoms depicted a sense of normalcy and total inclusivity to the LGBTQIA+ Community. This created a sense of affection, respect and bonding with the aspect that created a growing awareness, from first in the youth and then towards the adults.
A character like Cam, Michelle, David Rose, Leo, etc instantly struck a chord with the audience and proved to have a lasting impact. Indirectly, the normalcy in these shows towards this character created a sense of normalcy in our mindsets as well.
The showcasing of these phenomena on the big screen created a necessary awareness amongst the youth and even the older generation. These hit sitcoms and movies helped people realise the need to normalize the LGBTQIA+ Community. The craftsmanship of a fine piece of visual through movies and sitcoms encouraged the youth to embrace it.
This exposure to western media largely raised awareness and also broke many stigmas around the movement. Internet and social media gave the community a voice, where individuals used Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to share their life experiences and educate people about Pride and the LGBTQIA+ community. People started to express their true selves and started helping others to do the same.
It made people realise that they weren’t alone, they felt as if they were a part of something big.
Social Media also became a way to advocate for the rights of the community. Indian media however has not explicitly covered the topic of Pride, with very few movies and tv shows that truly make a significant impact. Homosexuality was written off as jokes in old Bollywood films where homosexual characters were the subject of ridicule or comedic relief. Modern-day Indian media is coming around to the topic, with openly gay characters taking major roles in movies and TV shows. Many mainstream directors and writers have been actively casting protagonists related to the subject, to normalise this actively.
Indian Mythology has always mentioned gender variance and non-heterosexuality in their folklore, Puranas, and other written and verbal scripts. The country’s rich history then was more inclusive of this phenomenon than now. This thought indeed provokes the hope that we can still go back to history and take its learnings into the account.
Normalising the LGBTQIA+ Inclusivity
It’s high time, we need to normalise it!
LGBTQI+ can be normalised through having a much larger representation in media and education. Creating safe spaces for conversations on the topic and providing platforms for people of the community to speak up about struggles and experiences. Also educating those who may not be exposed to it, while making society understand that at the end of the day that people of the LGBTQIA+ community are humans after all, who must not be the subject of abuse and discrimination for wanting to be who they are.
Going into the depth of understanding the logic rather than judging it through a surface should be avoided. The people in power need to change first, the people with influence should act first. And to do this, explaining the phenomenon right from a young age is important.
Pride and Architecture
Although India has never seen a space entirely dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ Community in recent times, this gleam of hope has risen.
The creation of large urban precincts that are specifically designed for the Pride community would be a great way to not only provide a space for them but also create a space that people who are not a part of the community can use to learn and educate themselves about the movement.
Additionally building housing communities for LGBTQIA+ individuals who may have been displaced, supportive coworking spaces and community centres. Pride museums would also be a great way for architecture to physically support the movement. Countries like the USA, Canada and Australia have community centres for the people who identify differently, along with homeless shelters. The Lost Angeles LGBT Center by Leong Leon + Killefer Flammang Architects is one such great example of making spaces that are inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ Community.
It is a community urban development community project. The pedestrian-oriented campus features a plaza and many courtyards that connect the different parts of the precinct that provide infrastructure for a plethora of different institutional programs, social services and cultural activities. LGBTQIA+ inclusivity is one of the core principles it is based on.
Even Louis Khan’s Four Freedoms State Park was built in support of Pride 2019, the steps of the park built by famous architect Louis Khan in New York City were painted in rainbow colours by Graphic Designer Fallon Kesicier, making it “New York’s largest Pride Flag” at the time!
As a country, the progress of acceptance and tolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community has been slowly increasing as times are changing. Indian youth are slowly pushing the country forward, through activism, raising awareness and opening conversations about Pride which is inherently changing the lives and minds of many.
As a movement, Pride still has a long way to go. Legally through laws and rights for the people of the community, and also mentally where the stigma around them can be reduced. Architecture can initiate huge advancements for the community to spread love, acceptance and tolerance by integrating functional yet aesthetic spaces.
The hope for a more accepting and rainbow-coloured future is slowly but surely becoming a Prideful reality. India is heading there, one day at a time, one individual at a time. The youth-centric country is also seeing a wide range of inclusivity that is slowly getting adapted even by the older generations. Even though we have a far way to go, but we are still heading there and that in itself is progress…..