Transgender Awareness Week: “Hey, Stop Being Awkward Around Us”
Let’s take a look at some transgenders who are breaking the glass ceiling.
We’ve only briefly heard and read about the problems that are faced by the third gender community. And it is success that they are trying to earn through this struggle.
With Transgender Awareness Week being celebrated from 14 to 20 November, let’s take a look at some transgenders, who are breaking the glass ceiling.
“I am a trained dancer and perform ballet, jazz, contemporary, Kathak and Odissi. I was trained at the Terence Lewis Dance Academy. I have modelled for a shoot for Grazia India and have consistently represented India in LGBTQ beauty pageants. I recently won Ms Style Icon at the Miss Transsexual 2017… Yet, I have had to turn to bar dancing for the last three years to pay my rent and be able to save enough to fund the treatment for my transition to being a woman,” says Shivali Chhetri, 28, a transwoman based in Mumbai.
While society may have opened up a wee bit to the transgender community, it is still hard for them to find their footing in the mainstream and make their lives successful, particularly transwomen.
I want to be a woman, just like my mother or my sister. I have had my testicles removed and am one operation away from being a complete woman; yet, I have to live with the tag of being a she-male.Shivali Chhetri, a transwoman based in Mumbai
Shivali adds, “Professionally, this has not helped me. I want to make it as a model and as a dancer, and have the skills for both – yet there is no work available for me. The need to reveal gender, take bikini shots for a portfolio, and simply live with the tag of being a she-male has made it difficult. How do I save up for my future and for my operation?”
Apurva Agnihotri a transgender celebrity make-up artiste based in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, believes if you are a professional, there is more acceptance.
Even today, there is a tendency among people to ignore or be awkward around us, but the high society are more open and accepting.Apurva Agnihotri, a transgender celebrity make-up artiste
As a child, Apurva’s family didn’t like him dressing as a girl. “I used to love dressing up like a girl. But because my family didn’t approve of it, I used to change into my regular clothes before I came home,” recalls Apurva.
But after her mother passed away, things became different. “When my mother passed away a few years ago, a lot of responsibilities came to me. I also started to dress the way I wanted to and slowly my family began to accept it.”
Today, I am financially independent. But, I still get a lot of calls asking me about the gender I belong to.Apurva Agnihotri
The Transgender Welfare Equity and Empowerment Trust (TWEET) Foundation was conceptualised in 2015 after realising there are serious gaps at the national level on trans issues. Shaman, a board member of the foundation, has been helping transmen in various parts of India through a WhatsApp support group.
A transman himself, Shaman feels that the concept of a transman does not carry with it any preconceived notions as far as looks and behaviour are concerned. “When a person who is born a girl acts manly, it is perceived as going up the hierarchical levels in a patriarchal society, and this makes the problems of transmen often go unrecognised and unaddressed.”
We (transmen) are a minority within a minority.Shaman of the TWEET Foundation
Unaware of Options
Shivali and Shaman both assert that there are many from the transgender community who are unaware of what their options are. “I have volunteered with organisations and I have counselled and advised many on transitioning, hormone therapy, and medical options,” says Shivali.
Shaman collates and shares data received from transmen on doctors, medical, and legal procedures on his WhatsApp Group. “Two years ago, there were no more than 10 to 20 transmen connected to one another via email groups and social media. In the last two years, we have been able to connect to more than 200 transmen through the group, that too from remote parts of the country,” he says.
It is events like the Transgender Awareness Week that help shed limelight on issues that otherwise go unnoticed. “I think anything that sensibly draws attention to the issues of the marginalised has merit because it allows a broader audience to understand them and the issues they face,” says Cyrus Oshidar, managing director and chief creative officer of 101India.com, a youth portal that chronicles unique stories across India, transgender stories included.
“In a diverse country like ours, unless we understand the issues of all Indians, large sections will continue to remain on the fringes, misunderstood, marginalised, and typecast wrongly.”
(Ruth is a media professional who has worked across multiple platforms in the last 15 years. She believes that every experience and interaction adds a new dimension to her perspective of the world and she loves every minute of what she does.)
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