Queer community says it with a hug

I am gay, will you hug me” read the poster held by Palash Borah, who was standing on an elevated platform in central Delhi’s Connaught Place area. Like Borah, many of his friends held similar posters asking people to come forward and hug them, telling them that they are “just as normal”.

The group was participating in Queer Hugs 2, which intended to connect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with society at the ground level.

Conceptualised by Harmless Hugs (HH), which was founded by Vinay Kumar with the idea of creating a space which is free of any kind of discrimination – not just because of one’s sexual orientation but also social, financial or economic status – the event saw participation from members of the community in abundance.

“The idea behind the event is to connect with society at the ground level and giving hugs is the best way! We want to show we are not different. We are just like you and your hate towards us is baseless. The response of first season was brilliant.  All kind of people - old and young - came to us and hugged us,” Harsh Agarwal, core team member, tells Metrolife.

The walk, which started around 5.30 pm on Sunday and concluded nearly an hour later, saw the group take a round of Connaught Place’s inner circle with colourful banners painted with messages like “I put the bye in bisexual. #FreeHugs”, “I am queer, will you hug me’, “I am straight for equality. Will you hug me” and “We are here, we are queer. Would you like to say hello! Will you hug me?”

Twenty-year-old Arijit Biswas, who came out to his mother when he was nearly 12-year-old, says that the event will help aware people about them.

“Still a lot of people do not know what being gay means, forget knowing what LGBT means. I hope this event will make them realise that we are no aliens and are totally normal – like them,” says Biswas, 20, who is currently pursuing jewellery designing.

Agrees Borah, who says there is still a long way to go before the society accepts them. “My friends and colleagues know, but I am still in the process of telling my parents back home in Assam. People think if we get married things will get be good. But of course, that’s not the case,” he says.

Sharing the various initiatives undertaken by HH, Agarwal says that it emerged to become a youth collective from a small online group.

“We started with small meetings of 15 to 20 people our first offline initiative. We soon came up with other concepts like Queer Holi, further engaging people. One of the major milestones in our journey was Queer Hugs. It was an unplanned event and we had no clue it would be such a huge success. The idea was simple - to hold placards saying I am queer, will you hug me and wait for crowd to respond,” he says.

He adds that the LGBT flash mob was another sudden decision but got great response. “I always feel we underestimate ourselves and the society. Each time we conduct an event and see the response, there is an avalanche of positive feelings. The official video got more than 47,000 views and it was covered extensively,” he says.

Ready to join his friends, Avinash Samar says that his participation in the event is his way to seek change. “We are fighting for a change in the law, but before that we need to have social acceptance. The society needs to be sensitised first and changes in the
law would soon follow,” he says, smiling.

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