On the lazy insti Saturday afternoon of 9th September 2023, a spectacular image was unfolding. Just as the sun dipped below the horizon, cascading hues of red, pink, purple, green, and blue, seamlessly mingling with the hues of twilight, ascended into the skies. The commotion on the Himalaya lawns was unusual; it was a gathering of a deeply committed Junta, who were determined to accept their genuine selves, defy stereotypes, extend steadfast support, or simply be. Hundreds of people marched from Himalaya Lawns to the Central Lecture Theater (CLT) in unison. The campus resonated with slogans such as “Queer rights are human rights!” and “Let’s get loud, let’s get proud.”
This was insti’s first ever Pride Parade, held by Vannam under its heads Deepika and Aleena.
Vannam is IITM’s student-run LGBTQIA+ support and sensitisation group at IIT Madras. It strives to improve queer representation on the campus and create a safe space for discussion of queer representation on the campus.
“Vannam has worked endlessly towards making IITM an all-inclusive campus. It is a supportive and safe space for everyone – members of the queer community and allies alike. Our motive is to ensure everyone’s right to dignity and respect.”
– Deepika Devarapu, Head
Preparations for the Parade
The reels were humorous and quirky and caught attention quickly.
“It was an amazing experience being a part of the Pride Parade. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thought until last year that I’d see a Pride Parade in the campus for another couple of years at least! It was really nice and heartening to see the community effort that went into it and also the number of people who turned up. I’m really glad to see Vannam growing up so much and so beautifully!”
– Garima, Head, Vannam 2022-23
“So, one of the expectations we had from our Pride Parade was to introduce people to Vannam. We hope that this parade worked towards creating awareness regarding the existence of a support and sensitization group for queer people in IITM.”
“The very fact that so many people showed up just goes to show that the people on campus are eager to open up and be accepting of themselves and others.”
“At the end of the day, love is love, and the only things we love a person for are their soul and mind. The aim of the parade was to normalize and accept the diversity of the human mind, soul and body. We are all becoming more accepting of our differences and similarities. We are accepting the fact that members of the queer community are no different than us, and the headcount at this parade is the testimony of that acceptance.”
– Neha, Ph.D. ’23, Department of Physics
“To conduct such a well-structured large-scale event without any interruptions is a major achievement on the part of Vannam. Indeed it has come a long way. Even though I have not seen any explicit malice towards the community, there is a lack of education and sensitization. There is a general lack of understanding regarding queer people’s boundaries. So I personally hope that events like this will help spread awareness at least on the micro level even if the bigger issues of homophobia cannot be tackled immediately.”
– Aeenakshi Roy
“To me, pride means showing my support as an ally and celebrating the progress that we’ve made as a community. Being given a space to express that on campus was an unforgettable experience.”
– Yashita Arora
The parade saw enthusiastic participation from the faculty as well – professors from a number of departments showed up and extended their full support towards the cause.
“It’s very easy to close your eyes when you don’t belong to a minority community. It’s very easy to use ‘he’ everywhere and not realize that you are leaving out more than half of the population. We are so caught up in maths, engineering, science, that we think that that is all there in the world. It isn’t. We live in a society; there are social issues; they are political by nature. We can’t skirt away from them.”
– Professor Nishad Kothari, CSE
This parade was a big opportunity for queer people in the IIT Madras campus. Many students came out during the event and showed the world who they truly were. They were welcomed with immense love and were overwhelmed with the acceptance and support shown by the allies and all the students of IIT Madras.
Although the parade was an immense success, we still have a long way to go when it comes to representation. We cannot say that one event will change the lives of the queer students on campus. This event has to be followed with constant efforts at the community and institute levels to make the campus all-inclusive. Queer friendly policies such as installing gender neutral washrooms on campus, creating a provision to drop the dead names of the students from official documents and ask for their chosen name during administrative processes, having queer-affirmative psychologists and psychiatrists at the wellness center, sensitizing faculty, staff and students about the queer community and encouraging allyship are absolutely essential to create a safe and inclusive campus.
“There was pink, there was blue, there was red, black and white: there was laughter, there was joy, there was love, friendship and strength.
There was pride.”
– Aditya Kumar