Against the shrinking of our cities

This Sunday, Delhi walks in its fifth annual queer pride parade. Each year at this time, the question arises again: why a pride parade? Transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, hijra, kothi and intersex people still have too many answers to give. While a decision on the appeals against the 2009 Naz judgment still remains pending, stories of continuing violence on the bodies of those deemed different do not wait for the Supreme Court. Queer people continue to have no legal protections against discrimination in the workplace, to be forcibly dragged to psychologists, to be forced to lie, cheat and conceal their lives, to be victims of familial, domestic and public violence and to feel, both in their own minds and in the eyes of many others, like lesser citizens.

This past year has reminded us that they are not alone. The fundamental pillars of what enables this violence — fear, prejudice and intolerance — seem to have dug themselves deeper into our cities, just as the institutions and democratic safeguards meant to combat them seem to have floundered. The ranks of urban residents who have experienced that deeply queer moment of exclusion and otherness, whether it speaks the particular idiom of sexuality or not, have grown. This year, as people take to the streets once again, they must do so not just for themselves, but also for the cities they inhabit and, increasingly, must protect.

How does one belong to a city? Belonging cannot mean the same thing for different city residents. It shifts across racial, caste, class, gender, ability and sexual difference. Each outlines a different fracture in the fabric of the city. Yet often these fractures don't even recognise that they fall upon the same skeleton. They stand apart, leaving the connections between Northeasterners departing Bangalore in packed trains, slum evictions proceeding apace in Delhi, a public molestation in Guwahati, the rise of the Shiv Sena in Mumbai, the breaking of worker movements in Manesar and the communal ghettos of Ahmedabad unsaid and unspoken, though fundamentally, each makes the city air difficult to breathe in similar ways.

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