Category Archives: The Things We Do

Made In (Gay) Heaven: A Queer Man’s Guide To The Amazon Prime Original

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Amazon Prime’s Made in Heaven dropped its full season on Friday, and I won’t be lying when I say that I was a tad bit apprehensive about watching the show.

Excited, yes. But also very apprehensive.

On paper, it seemed too good to be true. Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti who helmed the iconic (and my eternal favourite) Gully Boy? Check. Starring a cast of good-looking actors with even better acting chops? Check. Exploring (but not mocking) the inner recesses of Delhi’s upper-class elite? Check. Lots of sex, drugs and rock & roll? Check. Just about every commendable indie actor gracing the guest cast? Double check.

Like I said, the show could be every Bollywood junkie’s wet dream (come true) – because it looked like it had everything. In fact, if this were a boy, I would have wooed him with flowers, and taken him out on a La La Land-inspired date.

But that’s the thing. Like most boys I’ve dated, this had the potential to blow up in my face (no pun intended). Why?

Over drinks many months ago, an anonymous insider told me about a WIP wedding-themed show with a meaty gay character (who had a meatier storyline). Said anonymous insider had thought it would make me happy.

I had only sighed.

In the past, Bollywood’s treatment of homosexuality has been both over-the-top and under-the-belt – queer men have been packed in bright florals and skintight trousers, only to become cookie-cutter caricatures of themselves. I honestly don’t mind the flamboyant stereotype, but contrary to (most of) Karan Johar’s films, there are more queer sub-cultures that are waiting to be voiced.

True, the 2019 cycle of representation has been iconic – from Shelly Chopra Dhar’s ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’ exploring a lesbian love story, to Sridhar Rangayan’s ‘Evening Shadows’, a touching tale about a city-bred man coming out to his small-town mother – but they came with their fair share of triggers. Take the former, for instance – where the central voice of the reason in a queer narrative is still a CIS heterosexual man. A nice understanding man, but a CIS man still the same.

So you can imagine my apprehension when I jumped right into Made In Heaven (armed with a bottle of wine and Chinese takeout) with an open mind and a heavy heart. Did it make the cut?

It didn’t just make it; it nailed it.

Without giving away too many spoilers, Akhtar and Kagti’s Made In Heaven is the most honest representation of Delhi I’ve ever seen, coming a close second to Anuja Chauhan’s fascinatingly funny ‘Those Pricey Thakur Girls’. The number of things I liked about the show would make this sound like a love letter, so I’ll stop (because I never know how to deal with unrequited feelings).

And that’s one of the best compliments it can get.

Made in Heaven is a binge worthy show about rich society wife Tara Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala) and her gay business partner/friend Karan Mehra (played effortlessly by (a rather straight) Arjun Mathur (I know because I checked), who solve cases plan weddings, while dealing with the trials and tribulations of their own personal lives – philandering husbands, snoopy landlords and bone-breaking loan sharks, to name a few.

And this is where Arjun Mathur steps up and completely changes the game as an actor playing a strong, sensible gay man. For a character to shine in such a giant crowd is commendable, especially since there hasn’t been such an all-encompassing cast since the Game Of Thrones series. So how does his queer representation appeal to the mehendi-wearing, Marlboro-smoking queer man in me?

Because he could be anybody. He could be your brother. Your friend. That popular kid from school. The class bully. The owner of your favourite jazz bar. For all we know, he could even be your wedding planner. And Karan Mehra is all of them. He’s your everyday gay man™.

The everyday gay man™ plays video games with the same enthusiasm he shows in attending queer soirees. He flits in and out of V-neck tees, but wears bespoke designer kurtas to engagement parties. He loves his wine, but he drinks beer too. He struggles with coming out to his parents, but he’s also struggling with debt. He has sex (full fledged #NSFW sex, but not too #NSFW because I know my mildly conservative mother binged the show without batting an eyelid) with lots of lean, toned attractive men, but feels lonely without his ex.

But hold on, the show isn’t just about aesthetically pleasing queer men having (aesthetically-pleasing) sex with each other. It’s about so much more.

Because MIH doesn’t just toy with the idea of a queer storyline; it polishes it and puts it up on the mantelpiece proudly, for the whole world to see (and give coveted looks at). And there’s no token gay man here, there’s an entire spectrum of gay men – gay men who are about to be married, gay men who are already married, gay men who are in same-sex marriages, and gay men who never want to get married. For a show that’s heavily built on the premise of wedded bliss, this seems like an inside joke that we are all privy too.

And then the show does something else.

It dwells deep into a world that’s still not rid of Section 377, and brings queer culture (and rights) front and centre; in a way very few movies (or Indian television shows) have done in the past. And before you know it, you feel the scary repercussions of the age-old draconian law as it pushes the main character into a plot that we all need, but don’t deserve.

Suddenly, he’s the central hero (or anti-hero, based on how you look at the string of broken hearts and broken men he leaves behind) – coming out to his parents, owning up to his life and taking a stand for queer rights, all in a span of three episodes. The beauty of Made In Heaven’s queer narrative lies in the fact that Karan’s character is never a bumbling sidekick or the token comic relief; he’s the main lead.

Akhtar, Kagti and Alankrita Shrivastava’s writing constantly challenges the norms of love, relationships and marriage, but they seal the deal with their conversations on sexuality. The coming-out sequences are as gut wrenching as they are heartwarming, and while his small talk with his various paramours makes for great television, it’s Karan’s final conversation with his closeted landlord (played by Vinay Pathak) that steals the (wedding) cake.

Made In Heaven makes gay people what the media has never managed to do – it makes them real. And if this is the path they have chalked out for a second (and hopefully, future) season, I’ll gladly walk the aisle with them.

Conclusively, if I have a question for the makers of the show, it is this – how (and more importantly, why) do all the queer men in the show look like they ‘ve stepped out of the cover of GQ magazine?

And secondly, if and when I plan to get married, how do I get the fictional ‘Made in Heaven’ company to come plan my wedding with one of these aforementioned men?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To All The Girls I’ve Loved: Sorry For All The Times I’ve Been A Casual Misogynist

 

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I’d like to believe I am a lot of things.

I believe I am empathetic. I believe I am supportive. I believe I am a feminist. I believe I am pro-equality. And thus, I believe I am ‘woke’ – but not woke like all the other woke men out there, I giggle (which automatically makes me like all the other woke men out there).

I’ve called out misogynists. Nipped sexist jokes in the bud. Broken gender norms (and a few plates) in the kitchen. Walked my kid sister to school. Schooled boys who catcall and letch. Literally pushed past drunken men to create safe spaces for my girl friends at bars. Stared men down who stare at women. Given lectures. Taken notes. I’ve supported my women friends. Revered them. Put them on a pedestal. My relationship with all the women in my life can thus be summarised as one giant love letter. I support, and as kids today would say, I ‘stan’ women. I could be the poster boy for feminism.

So you can imagine my surprise when this happened a few months ago at a friend’s birthday party:

‘Jeez, it’s just a compliment,’ I rolled my eyes at the birthday girl, when she dismissed my (obviously uncalled for) remarks about her dress. I had called it ‘skanky, but strong and opinionated skanky’. It was supposed to be a joke, and I was perturbed that she didn’t find it funny. How do I know?

Because she called me a word that most gay men hate to be associated with: a misogynist. Me, a misogynist? I don’t think so, lady. How could I, a self-aware, self-conscious, raging homosexual be even mildly misogynistic? I don’t look like one, do I?

‘…And gay men love women. I love women,’ I thought to myself, citing the fact that around 98 percent of my friends were female. You remember the bit about the love letter, don’t you?

I later caught myself calling a female driver a ‘little bitch’ under my breath (side note: I now stick to gender-neutral abuses, such as ‘irresponsible maniac’) to realise I might have a little problem.

That’s the thing about casual misogyny. It’s a disease without symptoms. There are no flu-like signs. No aching in the bones. No wheezing and whooping. No constricted breathing. It doesn’t come with a dedicated WebMD page (and even if it did, you would confuse it with testicular cancer), or even a prescription.

It’s everywhere, and you, my friend, like me, are most certainly suffering from it too. Gay male privilege is a thing (especially since the cis-gay man is the ‘straight white male’ equivalent of the queer pyramid), and often it feels like our minority status grants us the get-out-of-jail-free card for casual misogyny (for example, Grindr ‘preferences’). It’s our community’s best-kept secret.

I used to think it was my responsibility as a self-loving gay man to make disparaging remarks about the dressing sense (and often, appearance) of my female friends. Being salty is being endearing, I thought. If I am not honest with a woman who I so obviously love, how will she find herself? How will she become fierce? How will she become strong? Independent? A diva?

Because from Madonna to Ariana, from Beyoncé to Britney, from Sridevi to Kareena, we love ourselves a diva – as long as they are perfect.

And just then, when you begin to scratch the surface, you find that there are many shades of sexism unique to gay men. It’s a problem that’s always swept under the proverbial carpet, because that’s the thing about gay men and how difficult it is to identify our misogyny: We can infiltrate the thinnest of cracks, because we are supposed to be ‘brothers in arms’.

But do we really embrace the sisterhood in all its entirety?

An important example is in the wave of profiles on Grindr (and other gay dating apps) that describe themselves as ‘Masc4Masc’, comically butching up their image to get into bed with others like them. Similarly, Scruff’s ‘Most Woofed’ section is pure gold – a grid of hairy, bare-chested men in various states of undress, dousing you with their masculinity. It’s the same everywhere. Femininity, whatever that may be, thus becomes a dirty word – a slur that means ‘lesser’. Weak. Alien. Different.

As a gay man in his 30s, it makes me wonder to what extent I’ve stunted my own femininity – even if I might have done it unsuccessfully – just so I could fit in. Do I walk a certain way that I shouldn’t? Do I talk a certain way I shouldn’t? Do I behave a certain way I shouldn’t? What about my fluid arms and my fluid gait? Most importantly, what about my fluidity?

It’s sad that so many of my peers feel the same way. Gay men of a certain age and nature are being increasingly daunted and disgusted by the feminine – unless it’s safe, or a joke, or a reality show like RuPaul’s Drag Race. Is it right?

Not in the slightest.

Internet quotes will tell you to ‘Spend time with women, strong women. Women who cheer you up and cheer you on, women who teach you, women who support you. Spend time with women who will make you laugh, women who have opinions, and women who will call you on your bullshit. Visit ugly places, pretty places, dangerous places and strange places with them. Eat, laugh, make merry and be silent with them.’

What do they not tell you?

To put yourself in their shoes. To be them. To embrace them. To treat women as equals, not assets. To respect (and revere). To laud (and love). To support (and take a stand for). And what if I don’t?

Just tell me to go make a sandwich.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Gay Men And Casual Sex

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Love stories can be weird.

I meet Shamita, a high-flying lawyer at friend’s birthday soiree. She’s pretty, she quips about pop culture and politics, and makes Kim Kardashian jokes over dinner – I find myself instantly attracted to her. Over drinks, we bond over our mutual appreciation for menthol cigarettes and men who refuse to commit.

Am I falling in love?

Not so fast, lover boy. Somewhere over our third gin-and-tonic, as we bemoan the lack of desirable men (but not mates) in our lives, and are this close to being each other’s back-ups when we are well in our 40s, Shamita throws the quintessential jab at my sordid dating history:

‘But it’s okay if you are a slut, you are gay!’ she splutters, as I gently thump her on her back.

‘Umm, what?’

‘Yeah, that’s the whole point of Grindr, isn’t it?’ she grins.

Is that supposed to be endearing? Amusing? Consoling? Comforting? My platonic love story – like all my other romantic escapades – dies an early death. It was too good to be true anyway. Plus, she hasn’t read my piece from last week, where I rebuke people (such as her) for so harshly judging the love lives of flippant gay men (such as myself).

I am not amused.

As a 30-year-old gay man, I have no qualms about being on Grindr (or any other dating app for that matter). I have heard the ‘buh-dupe’ sound everywhere I’ve gone – the club, the gym, at Starbucks, my favourite restaurant, and this one weird time, from the pockets of my local general practitioner.

Apps like Grindr (and the motley crew of matchmaking apps it is part of) have been the gold standard for men to meet (and mate with) other men. But then again, what about dating (read: hook up) apps for straight people? Certainly, Tinder might be the closest thing to a hook up app for non-gay folk, but it absolutely falls short of being a full-fledged mate-making service. There’s no space for sexts and all the ensuing unsolicited dick pics. Surely, gay men aren’t the only group of people who want to engage in casual (but also toe-curling) sex. So where is the disconnect?

It’s in the relationship that people believe gay men have with their ideas of casual sex. Is it the first of many nights of morning-afters? An all-access pass to the neighborhood sex clinic? A jigsaw puzzle of ‘what not’s’ before you find your ‘why not’? A patchwork quilt of essential bouts of heartbreak? Or most importantly, the first stop in your rites of passage of finding a relationship?

What is it not?

A parameter for approval by anyone else. While acceptance by ‘this’ society is useful in many ways, we lack foresight when we try making it our primary goal. LGBT equality stands for many things – better representation, more visibility and the scraping away of prejudices and the patriarchy. But most importantly, it stands for living the best lives we can lead.

Equality has never been about being palatable to society. It’s about having the freedom to do whatever you want to do, just like our heterosexual friends – our relationship with NSA sex included. We have half a dozen other battles to fight, because when you are already dealing with transphobia, racism, sexism and violence against LGBT youth, there simply isn’t any time (or fu*ks to give) about who is having sex with whom, and how often.

Just remember one thing: You’ll never win with a homophobe, just like you’ll never win with your mother. So there’s no point trying to please one (mothers on the other hand, are a different case). Instead, go live your life as vividly as you can. That can mean swiping at gold-rimmed mason jars for your wedding registry, or swiping right on half a dozen boys on Tinder in a single night.

At the end of it all, you have to do ‘you’.

Or just about anyone you want to.

Dear Gay Men, Do We Have A Problem With Promiscuity?

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As the average gay guy would tell you, one of the first things you do as a homosexual man is to reject the notion of homosexuality entirely – ‘I am not like the others’, you tell yourself, stiff-lipped – in fact, you’ll tell anyone who’ll listen – ‘I won’t let this define me’, ‘I won’t be the gay person’, all the way till you reach the quintessential ‘I won’t be who I am uncomfortable being.’

You complain about the stereotypes, over bottomless mimosas at brunch, hating other gay men for experiences you’ll never be able to have. You may hate (and hurt) yourself because you feel like you need to, before anyone else – straight, or from the very community you are reluctant to be a part of – has the chance to hate (and hurt) you first.

And then you download Grindr.

Sure, we crave acceptance like we crave gluten-free bread, but we all like to bite off a little more than we can chew. You are not like the others, you say, you aren’t a threat – and since being gay is linked to sex, that’s what you do – you attack the sex lives of others.

Like a voracious carnivore who’s gone cold turkey vegan, it’s quite the norm for gay men to behave in a certain way once they enter the comforts of a monogamous relationship. Glad to have been finally rescued from the shackles of Grindr, gay bars, and (the occasional) golden shower, they chide the irresponsible and irrelevant men they’ve left behind – lonely men who are still seeking the One in cyber space, or worse, the corner stall of the public restroom.

Never mind the fact that traces of his Hugo Boss still cling to the air in the dark smoking room of his favourite club – the same one with all the sexcapades – but as far as he’s concerned, he has nothing to do with that world anymore. It’s as alien as wearing crocs in public. But that’s the thing, whether we choose to take part in these activities or not, it’s still our world. If the gay community does really exist, which it does, before you point your accusatory (but manicured) fingers at me, then we have to accept that these kinds of things happen, but no, it doesn’t reflect on you in anyway (unless you let it).

Why are people (gay and straight) so obsessed with gay men’s sex lives?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The list of clichés attached to being a gay man can be as endless as the number of attendants at the Zara store, and equally unhelpful – we are stylish, hedonistic, sex-crazed and drug-addled party junkies, to just name a few.

Some of these will be self-perpetuating; there will always be hook-up apps, there will always be drugs, there will always be clubs, and the only reason these clichés exist is because such people exist.

It has always been easy and convenient for a gay man in a monogamous relationship to dismiss others as plastic and promiscuous, simply because it’s the easiest thing to do. “We are the new norm,” they think, “we aren’t ‘like everyone else’ – we are just as good as our ‘straight friends,’” they laugh.

But what they don’t realise is that they are creating new stereotypes of their own, which are just as toxic – the prissy gay man who thinks other gay men shouldn’t behave in a certain way that straight people wouldn’t approve of, so we could ‘fit in’.

There isn’t anything wrong with monogamy; in fact I’ve been in multiple monogamous relationships myself. It’s a wonderful idea, and for a lot of us, it’s the heartwarming dream, the proverbial light at the end of a dark, dreary tunnel. If you really want it, you should go out of your way and fight the odds to get it. Be the Netflix movie that you secretly despise. But that still doesn’t give you any reason to step on and snigger at people who don’t fall in line with your idea of dating.

Nor should those who reject the notion of monogamy scoff at anyone who follows it. It’s not exactly ‘heteronormative’ to want a monogamous relationship – I know plenty of people who have their Tinder on speed dial as well.

But then, the concept of gay monogamy has always had a different tangent from its straight counterpart. Straight relationships usually have set milestones – courtship; engagement; marriage; children; and grandchildren till you reach that constant state of bliss spent bickering over who gets the remote control (or control over the Netflix account) in the end.

What do gay people have? Fall in love, settle in and move in together… and then what? Get a dog? Get a couple of kittens? A twin Vespa? Get matching cardigans and go on a world cruise, maybe?

Until marriage equality and relaxed rules around adoption come into play, gay men will have to wait – and we might as well wait around with some company.

72 Thoughts You Have While Attending A Pride March

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Mumbai celebrated its eleventh ever Pride March two days ago, and being the socially anxious (but also out-and-proud) queer man that I am, I had a lot of thoughts.

Want to know what being at the city’s biggest gay parade felt like? An overdose of rainbows and unicorns aside, here are 72 different thoughts I had while walking the (most fabulous) parade:

1. OMG! It’s Pride today!

2. Should I put on a face mask?

3. Where is my face mask?

4. Oh boy, what should I wear?

5. Is this too colourful?

6. Is this too black and white?

7. Does this look like I am trying too hard?

8. Does this look like I am not trying at all?

9. Where’s the flag I saved from last year?

10. Will they have new flags to give away today?

11. Why do I have to make so many decisions, oh no!

12. What if I run into someone I know?

13. What if I don’t run into anyone?

14. Will I look weird if I am alone?

15. What if people laugh at me?

16. Wait… what if they really, really don’t.

17. Okay, I am going.

18. Maybe I should have a Plan B?

19. I don’t even have a Plan A. LOL.

20. *heavy breathing exercises*

21. Well, here we are.

22. Why is it so crowded?

23. Is the whole world here? WOW!

24. Look at all these people!

25. Look at all these colours!

26. Look at all this joy!

27. Look at all this energy!

28. OMG! That poster is so cool!

29. OMG! That poster is so funny!

30. Whoa! Look at that outfit. #SLAY4LIFE

31. Damn. Did they see me look? Quick, turn around. Hide face!

32. Should I take a photo?

33. No. No photos without consent.

34. Wait, are they taking MY picture?

35. Should I ask them to delete it?

36. Wait, I look great anyway.

37. Okay, let me go ask them for a picture too.

38. Okay, the march is starting…

39. Nobody can rain on this parade!

40. OOOH, look! A rainbow!

41. Another one…

42. And another one!

43. AND ANOTHER ONE!

44. Okay, how many rainbows does it take to screw on a light bulb?

45. All of these, because they ‘light’ me up with joy LOL.

46. GOD I am so funny.

47. Okay, it was funny.

48. You can at least pretend to find it funny.

49. Whatevs.

50. HOT DAMN. SO. MUCH. COLOUR.

51. It’s wonderful to see so many people who are absolutely free!

52. Gaaaaah. I need to learn a lesson or two from them.

53. This is so heartwarming.

54. Why was I even unsure of coming here?

55. Can’t believe it’s been eleven years since the city had its first Pride March!

56. Go #PRIDE!

57. Maybe I should make a poster for next year?

58. Why don’t I have a slogan for today anyway?

59. My hands look awkward not holding anything.

60. OOH. Wait, I’ll just ask that girl over there if I can take her extra flag.

61. Okay. How do I ask?

62. Here goes.

63. Well… that was easy.

64. Okay, now I am good.

65. Where do I look? Where do I look? I DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING!

66. There’s. So. Much. Love.

67. It’s true. Love is love is love is love is love is LOVE.

68. Am I crying? No, YOU are crying!

69. This is honestly so empowering, man.

70. Wait. Is it over already? We just started!

71. Where did all the time go?

72. Okay, why can’t every day be just like this?

#PrideGuide: How To Be a Better Ally in 2019

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It’s time for the Mumbai Pride, people.

It’s going to be a celebration of queer culture, of colour, of everyone’s right to be (and more importantly, love). It’s going to be the biggest (queer) party of the year – think of an EDM festival without the claustrophobia and ear-deafening music. But only with lots of colour and joy.

While I might have already given you enough reasons to pull up your socks and walk the parade (irrespective of your sexuality), it’s important to know that just attending the Pride march doesn’t cut it anymore.

See, because Pride didn’t become an annual event just because queer people needed a party (but we do). It’s tied to a long history of struggle that shouldn’t be ignored, especially by queer allies and straight participants.

We march to protest against the rampant homophobia that still exists in our society. To celebrate our identity in a world that always discourages us from doing so. And obviously, people who don’t identify as a part of the community are the (root) cause of the struggle. No offence.

Of course, straight people can – and must – attend the march to show their solidarity. But there are some things heterosexuals need to think about when joining us in celebration, especially when the celebration isn’t about them. Remember, you are coming to an LGBTQIA+ event as a guest, and it’s something you need to be cognizant of.

But this is where I come in. Hold on to your rainbow socks and glitter shoes, because I am more than happy to help. Want to know more?

Without much further ado, here are six ways to be a better straight ally at Pride this year:

Do: Go in judgment free

You may see some things you’re not expecting at Pride. There are going to be men in drag. Women in suits. Boys wearing corsets. Guys wearing fishnet stockings. Dudes in leather. Dudes without. Guys in their finest jewellery. Ladies in their finest mohawks. But no matter what you see, keep your opinions to yourself. At Pride, let queer people express themselves as they want. The best versions of themselves.

Don’t: Stare at people

You don’t like it, and neither do we. It’s not a zoo, people. We aren’t here for your entertainment. It’s really that simple.

Do: Understand your privilege

Even if you’re the ally of the year, you’re entering Pride with a lot of privilege. The privilege of being straight, which automatically, according to a large part of the Indian populace, makes you ‘normal’. Understand that, but more importantly, understand that Pride is a LGBTQIA+ safe space, and you need to keep it that way. So walk out and proud, but know that the queers need to be in the limelight here more than you do.

Don’t: Take pictures of people without consent

Do we need to give you another lesson on consent? Especially when people’s personal and professional lives are at stake? Find someone interesting and want to take a picture? Just ask. If they refuse, walk away like a nice human being.

No pictures without permission. Now repeat it with me till it becomes a part of you.

Do: Enjoy it, but know that it’s not only about you

Loved the colours? The joy? The display of fabulousness? Great, now you also need to love the fact that at pride, ‘it’s queer first, you later’. Like I said many times before, it’s really not about you.

Side note: The A in the LGBTQIA+ doesn’t stand for Ally, it stands for Asexual and Aromantic — grossly misrepresented, but needing their space in the spectrum more than anyone else (especially you, straight cis folk).

Don’t: Assume people’s identities

No matter how people present themselves at Pride, it’s important not to make assumptions. There’s no better place than Pride to start asking for the pronouns of the people you meet, and to go neutral with the pronouns of people you don’t. Be mindful of the words you use, and the way you use them. Always ask, instead of assuming.

See, going into Pride as an ally might seem intimidating (and I am really sorry if I made it seem so), but it’s really not. Keep this list of do’s and don’ts in mind, and you’ll be more than welcome to walk (fabulously) with us. We’ll even take a group picture!

#PrideTalk: 37 People Tell Us What #Pride Means To Them In A Post Section 377 World

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We’ve come full circle, boys and girls.

In less than a week, the city walks its eleventh ever Pride March – which means, the city’s (and the country’s) gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brethren will take to the streets to walk for freedom, for love, and for everything in between.

This year is a monumental one as it marks the city’s first ever Pride March after the Supreme Court’s decision to read down parts of Section 377, thus making same-sex relationships legal (and the world a happy place again)!

Which is why, to honour the day and prove how important the cause is, I asked 37 queer folks what #Pride means to them in this (ever-so-slightly) progressive world. Our relationships may be legal on this bright(er) day, but we still have miles to go before we get the rights we deserve: workplace equality, the right to marry, anti-discrimination laws. The list goes on, but the questions don’t.

I asked, and the answers poured in from everywhere. Here’s what they all had to say:

Finally being and cherishing who I am and not giving a damn about what the neighborhood aunties will think.
Arnav, poet

Not having to assure people that you like ‘girls and boys’.
Harikesh, legal consultant

Being able to express myself the way I really want to. As the best (and truest) version of myself.
Kartik, copywriter

Stop trying to obsessively define queerness. Be inclusive. Be loving. Be kind. Be cool.
Mahima, writer

In fact, it shouldn’t need a definition. I don’t need to explain what, why or who. Straight people don’t come out or give explanations, so why should we?
Thangsing, blogger

Self-acceptance. As a biromantic homosexual, it took me 17 years to accept who I really am.
Arunava, chef

Not making a conscious effort to hide my sexuality.
Saumya, student

Feeling brave enough to wear makeup and heels as a cis man.
Harshvir, daytime diva

Pride means, to be you.
Harsh, poet

Not feeling guilty for loving or wanting what your heart truly desires.
Tanvi, team leader

Joy.
Arzoo, illustrator

As a bisexual woman, I want reactions to be ‘OMG tell us about her!’ instead of ‘Oh, so are you gay now?’
Diya, Netflix addict

Being as proud of your crush as your straight friends are of their’s.
Ronak, marketing intern

Breathing freely.
Ananya, student

The strength to come out to my parents.
Soham, not disclosed

Being able to take all the negativity that has been thrown my way, and make it my personal strength.
Arjun, MBA student

Companies capitalising on a social movement.
Alankrita, HR professional

It’s plain, pure joy. The joy of homonormalisation!
Tushar, baker

Professing my love without the fear of trolling.
Pokhraj, student

People not saying things like ‘I’m okay with queers as long as they are not affectionate in public.’
Hiranmayi, Tumblr connoisseur

It’s all about being someone you’re proud to be and not ashamed to accept.
Anukul, management trainee

A sense of knowing and appreciating who you really are.
Iti, architect

Finding love and the strength to finally come out to my parents.
Dirk, entrepreneur

Educating others about the LGBTQIA+ community and not feeling uncomfortable because of it.
Prajwal, fashion student

The right to just be. To be treated without prejudice or discrimination, just as an equal.
Chittajit, science enthusiast

A colourful world.
Eklavya, college student

Focusing on the rights and freedom of the lesser-known members of the queer spectrum.
Rakesh, chemical engineer

Pride still means the same, pre or post Section 377: Be yourself unapologetically.
Paartho, columnist

Freedom.
Abhilash, consultant

The granting of civil liberties and marriage rights.
Kavita, panel moderator

Finally owning that runway walk I pretend to do on the streets — fierce and liberated.
Shethin, lawyer

Developing positive self-statements.
Naveed, writer

Greater responsibility to ensure some real change happens in the society.
Indrajeet, queer rights activist

Loving myself first.
Hruday, actor

To be more positive towards my sexual orientation and fellow 250 million queer folks around the world.
Rashi, chartered accountant

Breaking stereotypes, and making straight people realise the different shades of the queer spectrum.
Lokesh, researcher.

Being ‘normal’.
Rishabh, graphic designer