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Love is out there

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Love is out there




Siddharth Narrain

First Published : 12 Sep 2009 11:38:00 PM IST

Last Updated : 10 Sep 2009 09:42:15 PM IST

Copenhagen culture

Love was in the air as Copenhagen prepared to host the second edition of the World Outgames. More than 5,000 LGBT persons from around the world were expected to converge at the city for a week. They would be participating in 38 disciplines, spread across the city. Some of the participants were only taking part in the cultural events and human rights conference that were being held as part of this event. The city was decked with rainbow flags. The City Hall Square or Raduspladen was the centre of activity, with large banners, rainbow flags and a giant screen announcing the event. The official theme of the Games — “Love of Freedom — Freedom to Love” was displayed proudly in a city known for its progressive views on homosexuality.

Saare jahan se achha

We gathered near the Town Hall, arranging ourselves according to nationality. India was somewhere in the middle, sandwiched by Iceland and Indonesia. Our contingent didn’t have too many people. I was conscious of my jeans and jacket, but didn’t want to risk the cold with anything more ethnic. One of my friends was in a sari. Luckily I’d remembered to bring a flag. As we waited for the parade of nations to start, many people came around asking to pose with us. An Indian who was gay and studied in Copenhagen was thrilled to see us. It’s the first time I’ve met an Indian lesbian, he gushed, after being introduced to everyone there. He’d been in Europe for the last eight years, studying and working on the side to survive. Soon, we were joined by two more Indians, both of whom were working in Copenhagen. Torn between their patriotism and their obvious discomfort with us, they disappeared after a few minutes. As we marched on to the stage, the huge screen

behind us flashing images of us to the massive audience, we waved wildly at the crowd. Later, we joined the audience and watched the countries that lined up after us — the Nigerians and the Thais stole the show with their spectacular costumes.

Golden glory

The most well attended sporting event was the “Run for Love”. LGBT persons of all shapes and sizes gathered enthusiastically at the Amager Strand Park, an artificial beach that overlooks the Swedish city of Malmo. Some of them had trained hard for this day. Others like me, decided to join a few minutes before the race began. Of the Indians who ran, two won medals — a gold in the 10 km event and a silver medal in the marathon. They were both overjoyed with the outcome. Alok Gupta, who won the gold, felt it was important to be a part of a community of runners. “It was amazing to be surrounded by gay athletes that day. We come from a society that’s not sports oriented. I’m excited to be doing something that not many of my peers are doing,” he said.

Stilettos and handbags

The fun events were the ones that were marked as workshops or non-competitive events. These included a handbag throw, stiletto race and a workshop on nude yoga. The only formal event that I really wanted to watch was the figure skating, but I lost my way to the venue. Even the most seriously competitive events were followed by a friendly beer at Oscars, the favourite neighbourhood gay bar. Clearly, hooking up post the race was as important as winning.

Inclusive environment

What struck me as extraordinarily thoughtful and sensitive were the fantastic facilities for disabled persons at the conference. To my amazement, even some of the cultural events, especially the songs, had a person translating to the audience in sign language. This reflected more generally on the exceptional facilities for disabled persons in this part of the world — a far cry from Namma India.

Of love and memories

The three most moving moments of the conference were at venues separated by space and time. The first was the inauguration of the Human Rights Conference by 94-year-old Axel Axgil, the surviving partner of the first gay couple in the world to get to married. Axel had married his partner Eigel Axgil at the Copenhagen Town Hall on October 1, 1989. The organisers played images of the ceremony on the screen behind him, as he was speaking, sparking off an emotional response from the audience.

From Castro and beyond

The second emotional moment was at the open air screening of the film Milk at the Oosterpark. Around 200 people packed the lawns of the park, huddled together despite the nippy evening chill. Cleve Jones, who is portrayed in the film as the bespectacled kid, who Harvey Milk weans from just cruising the Castro to an organiser on his campaign, addressed the audience before the film began, making this moment even more special.

God loves everyone

The most memorable part of the Games was a church blessing organised by the Vor Frue Kirke (The Church of Our Lady) for persons of all religions, nationality, sexual orientation and gender identity. In a remarkable gesture, it sported rainbow colours on its pillars. The priests spoke about how Jesus was inclusive in his love before asking those who wished to get blessed to approach them. Over 60 couples decided to get blessed by the priests here, many in tears as they went back to their seats. Even this had two persons — one translating into an international sign language and another into a UK-specific sign language.

Moments of pride

The Outgames ended with the Copenhagen Pride — huge floats, outrageous costumes, and a great band leading the way. We marched through large parts of the city waving to those lined up on either side of the road. The clear blue skies and magnificent buildings on eit­her side provided a grand backdrop to the march. Random Indians watching the event were thrilled to see us waving the tricolour, some of them acknowledging us, others introducing themselves, and the more enthusiastic ones asking for photographs with us. We gathered again at the Town Hall Square, where the closing speeches culminated in music and the square gradually turned into one big dance floor.


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Written by gaybombay

September 14, 2009 at 10:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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