Chandni, Kalki....

Transgenders in India

Meghdeep Patnaik

People are people. Short, tall, fat, skinny—one thing that no one can take away from them is their individuality. Just like a person's religion or colour does not define his credibility, his sexuality doesn't define his individuality.

The life of a transgender is bizarre and colourful at the same time. It is a constant battle with the social stigma and also with their minds and bodies. A documentary on the life of transgenders depicts the story of Chandni. Chandni makes a living by teaching her community sewing. She married an auto rickshaw driver with all the rituals of an Indian wedding. The best thing about her relationship with her husband is the fact that he respects her. She says "He is not ashamed of me. I want him to get married again because his parents deserve happiness. He treats me well, and that's all I need." It is morally and fundamentally wrong to judge them merely because of their sexual orientation. Most people in India think that transgenders can either go to someone's house to dance or get involved into the sex trade. This is a myth and people need to get over it.

A shining example, who has outdone all the prejudices with her education and work, is Kalki Subramaniam. She holds two masters degrees—one in Mass Communication and Journalism and the other in International Relations. And if this wasn't enough, she has another feather to her hat—that of an entrepreneur. She is the founder of Brand Kalki that manufactures and sells metallophones and wind chimes. Born to a middle class family, the path wasn't a bed of roses for her. However, she chose to pluck the thorns herself by working towards being successful. Today she's an inspiration to the several transgenders who cannot voice their desire to be in a different body.

However, she's not the only one who has gone out of the way to overcome the hurdles that a transgender faces. The Krishnagar Women's College appointed Manabi Bandopadhyaya as its principal. This was a breakthrough in India's history because she is the first transgender principal appointed by the College Service Commission, West Bengal. Not only was this a welcome surprise, it also shows that transgenders no longer want to be a victim to fate. They want to go out there and emerge as winners.

No doubt people's perception towards the third gender is changing. Padmini Prakash became the first transgender TV news anchor in India on the 68th Independence Day, a perfect day to celebrate the liberation of the country and its people. The Supreme Court legally declared transgenders as the third gender and 5 months later, Padmini Prakash was appointed as a news TV anchor with Coimbntore based Lotus News Channel. Within one month of her appointment, she became the face of the 7pm news bulletin because of the popularity she had gained in the month before.

Liberating India of the vices is a responsibility that every individual residing here must take. One can begin with being considerate and respectful to every individual—man, woman or a transgender. People's behaviour and conduct is the only thing that can bring about a commendable change in the society.

Vol. 48, No. 11, Sep 20 - 26, 2015