Correspondent (Delhi) ‘Stereotype is not our type’ – at the talk titled “We Are Your Strength”, organized by the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy (JSGP) & Office of Career Services today, the transgender speakers voiced it loud and clear. The event was organized at OP Jindal Global University.
The ‘other’ gender, stereotyped by the society as often engaged in sex-trading, begging on the streets, and hurling abuses, are not responsible for their gender identity. Yet not only the society, but also their own family often choose to not accept them or sever all ties with them on account of their gender identity. This systemic and cruel practice needs to change. The transgender community is very much a part of us and their difference is simply a question of diversity that we need to accept. They have the same needs, the same goals, same dreams to cherish and yet the society decides to ban their entry in the so-called ‘normal world’.
At this initiative aiming to speak out for and seek equal rights for transgender individuals, each of the speakers shared their life stories, struggles, ambitions and need for acceptance as well as equal treatment. Amruta Soni, the first transgender to be appointed as an advocacy officer for Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust for three states and a Union Territory is an MBA and nodal officer herself. But her regret is palpable as she questions her own identity saying, “I roam around in blue light car, get so much of prestige but not acceptance from the masses. My own family had thrown me out of the house when they came to know about the reality of my gender, handing me a 100 rupee note. I have been gang-raped on the last day of my MBA and society gifted me the HIV positive tag. The constitution of India doesn’t cater to the transgender community. Most of the hospitals and doctors are unaware of our treatment needs. So where do I stand?” She reminds us that the society has to make their heart and mind come together to accept them as they are. The Supreme Court might mandate laws to include them in the mainstream. But it’s us, the common people, who need to alter the way we think to make any real social change.
This very thought inspired Reena Rai, though not from the community herself, to fight for the inclusion and rights of transgender people after she befriended and saw the struggles of Vippy, a transgender worker at a parlour, and Sushant, who had come out as gay. Reena has single-handedly organized a beauty pageant – ‘Miss Transqueen India’ to give them a platform to realize their aspirations and challenge the normative notions of beauty. “We usually blame a company for the quality of a product and not the product itself. Then why blame the transgender individual when the parents are responsible for their birth,” she points out, addressing the question of blame.
The beauty pageant initiated by Reena has acted an identity for Veena Sendre and Namitha Ammu, two of the winning contestants, who will now be representing India in the international platform. Both of them have overcome various struggles of acceptance within their families and are now looking to make them proud of their achievement. While Namitha’s family now stands by the entire transgender community, Veena is welcomed and pampered by her village and whole of Chhattishgarh – the same people who had bullied her one day. “It’s not just who you are, but who you become. This is what my journey has taught me,” says Veena in her speech.
Akash K. Agarwal, the much talked-about Bollywood accessory designer, also spoke to us about his experience of being openly gay and turning stigma to strength. With experiences of designing for celebrities like Susmita Sen, Vidya Balan, Zeenat Aman, Gauhar Khan, Sunny Leone in the kitty, Akash blames Bollywood itself for stereotyping the transgender person on screen. A rebel by nature, Akash follows Mahatma Gandhi’s principle- ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world. That tags of caste, religion, gender and other such roles to play are given by the society only and he doesn’t feel the need to assert his sexual identity any differently from the next person. “Why would I be vocal about my sexual identity and needs, when my sister or brother doesn’t have to do that? Why would the society enter my personal space? Why should I face abuse and discrimination for being transgender?” He throws the question to the society and to the students and teachers present at the University Auditorium.
Time will tell of the impact of these meaningful exchanges and impassioned narratives. But if the roars of claps, the enthusiastic questions and the warm welcome were anything to go by then it was an afternoon well spent. O.P Jindal Global University has had a robust history of meaningful engagement with the community and this was yet another step towards realizing the collective dream of inclusion and acceptance. The session was moderated by Professor Rohini Sen of Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) with active support from Vinod Tejwani, Deputy Director, Office of the Career Service at Jindal Global Universit