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Frontrunners: A Sunday sojourn for city’s homosexual community

Being gay or lesbian in Delhi has never been easy. Especially when seen against the relatively open and thriving "Gay Bombay". Because of the criminalisation of homosexuality under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and the absence of a culture of tolerance, homosexual spaces and communities in Delhi appear to be less obvious and are limited to a select few bars, activist groups, online forums and social networking e-groups. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Delhi is underground and is largely invisible to those who are not in the know. However, a recently established group, The Delhi Frontrunners and Walkers, is expanding the boundaries of the homosexual community, bringing it out of Delhi's stuffy closet and into the fresh air and sunlight every Sunday afternoon. The Delhi Frontrunners and Walkers was established in August 2007 by Sanjay, a 31-year-old gay sexual rights activist and Law graduate from the London School of Economics. The group was inspired by a global movement of homosexual running groups, first established in San Francisco, called “The Frontrunners”. “The Delhi Frontrunners was formed sometime in the second half of 2006. I started putting email announcements about it on a few e-lists that have LGBT people on them. Sadly, it didn't catch anybody's attention or interest,” Sanjay says. “Sometime mid-2007, I tried again with a change of venue. It was very heartening when people turned up,” he adds. Now the email list and the running and walking group has expanded. There are 29 subscribers, and at least eight runners and walkers show up at a designated Delhi park every Sunday. The Delhi Frontrunners and Walkers operate via a carefully monitored email list, where people who are interested can join to receive information and meet up with the group to walk or run if they choose. Sanjay says the running and walking group involves the “claiming of public space for homosexuals, who are otherwise invisiblised, silenced, threatened, or their existence quite simply denied”. “Homosexual people want to have a share of public spaces like other people,” Sanjay says. Another member, Rajiv, echoes the sentiments. He says, “It brings a certain kind of empowerment, it is not just about running it is about a particular kind of visibility.” Identity crisis? Thirty-year-old Shashi, who works in the corporate sector and hasn't disclosed her sexuality to her parents, says work hours in her corporate job did not leave her with much access to Delhi's homosexual bars and nightlife. But the running and walking group offered }a nice way to meet people without going to a dark, smoky place”. Being gay or lesbian in Delhi has never been easy. Especially when seen against the relatively open and thriving "Gay Bombay".But hope hangs in air for the likes of Shashi and Rajiv. “A lot of people are now able to choose a lifestyle that wasn't there before,” Rajiv says. Being gay or lesbian in Delhi has never been easy. Especially when seen against the relatively open and thriving "Gay Bombay".The Frontrunners can be contacted at frontdel@gmail.com. (All names changed on request.) CLAIR MACDOUGALL on ExpressIndia.com Posted: Jan 06, 2008

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