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There's More Than One Color in the Rainbow

In 2023 the Indian Supreme Court quashed the dreams of those who felt India was ready to accept same-sex marriage.
But that does not stop the rainbow. The Rainbow Literature Festival still happened in Delhi in December celebrating queer stories and queer lives.
Saurabh Kirpal, a lawyer who is out as a gay man and fought for same sex marriage in court said they might have lost the battle but that won’t stop the change underway in India.

SK1:On questions of sexuality and gender identity there is a sense of openness.. and gender justice. That brings me hope. That society will bring about the change that we as lawyers could not bring about

Much of the world especially the USA celebrates June as Pride month. But in India that’s the middle of the monsoon. Not exactly weather to march on the streets. SO the cooler months of winter seem to have become the unofficial Indian pride.
Delhi had its pride in November. Kolkata celebrated Pride in December with a fabulous float, a giant rainbow flag and thousands marching down the street singing and chanting slogans


But it wasn’t just about slogans for marriage.
There was Dialogies, anLGBTQ film festival, a queer health camp and Kolkata Queernival, a queer carnival with outdoor games in the park


French Cambodian author Jean Baptiste Phou came to town to talk about his book Coming out of my Skin

JBP1: All I was was Asian and Asian was not sexy. I heard that over and over again. Trying to find my place as a person. My book is about that. Coming out of my skin.

And two of Kolkata’s best known galleries hosted art exhibits and talks for Kolkata Queer Arts Month. Ceramics, sound installations, paintings, photographs
Even a microresidency all about food.
And a pride ball where model, reality show star, drag queen Rani Ko-HE-Nur belted out torch songs on a chilly Kolkata night on the rooftop of a five star hotel


All this to say while media coverage sometimes makes it seem same-sex marriage is the one and only issue around which queer lives and queer debates revolve, the reality is quite different.
While marriage was a big part of the conversations at the Rainbow Lit Fest in Delhi there was much else that was on people’s minds.
For example Activist Rituparna Borah was on a panel talking about chosen families

RB1: A famous film like Paris is Burning so beautifully shows how chosen families are found. And that’s why we call them found families

Actor Kalki Koechlin was being asked about sexuality, choice and pleasure. And sex toys

KK1: - Sexuality, choice and pleasure - are there commas in between or one thing, One thing… uhh oh god, sexuality is a very broad spectrum, i

Poet Akhil Katyal read a poem that mapped his love story to different neigbourhoods of Delhi showing that queer life did not have to take its cues from Christopher Street and Castro.

AK1:Poem - beginnings were rocky, def col and kotla, ja… fight like rajauri, Gtr noida, dilshad garden..

Or drag performer Avtaari Devi with her act rooted in India’s hindi heartland


While Parmesh Shahani pointed out that while the mantra of diversity had spread to corporations, that supporter couldn’t just be crumbs granted out of some kinds of do-gooder mentality.

PS1: a lot of people who manage brands come from a place of wanting to do good but context is benevolent. I am doing for this community.

There was classical Indian dance but with a queer twist


And Live music


But more than anything on stage it was everything I saw off stage that blew me away. Young queer entrepreneurs selling everything from exquisite embroidery work depicting queer desire to sassy tote bags with slogans like Gay Trash.
They were out, proud and not going back into any closet. What was even more amazing some of them had even come with their parents who were helping them with their business. Just another mom and pop and queer child business.
As one attendee said this was about making community one conversation at a time

DEL1: since yesterday  meeting people here given me 6 new ways to think about how do I want to spend the next 20 years of my life

It just goes to show that when it comes to queer life in a place like India, there’s really a rainbow happening. And same sex marriage isn’t the only colour in that rainbow


This is Sandip Roy in Kolkata for KALW