LGBTQ Indians Challenging The Societal Norms
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. These words by famous Persian poet Omar Khayyam echoes the intrinsic happiness that life beholds. Life is all about happiness, emancipation, living and loving. But, sadly, with the social distinctions and stigmas being applied more forcefully with every foot towards modernity, life is definitely not the same for everyone. Of course, there is the socially downtrodden group of people – the poor from the rural areas – to whom happiness is an ever-elusive entity. However, the government recognizes them as a part of the Indian population and has numerous schemes and benefits listed to their interest. The real subjugated people, if you ask me, are the people from the LGBTQ community. Such is their circumstance that sometimes they are completely unrecognized by the very society they live in and are a part of.
Regarded as the “other”, people from the LGBTQ communities have to grow up facing humiliation and derogation since childhood. Or, simply, have to hide their identity in order to gain “normalcy” certificate from the society.
However, there are some people – heroes nonetheless – who have risen from this crippling situation, tearing away the taboos imposed on the society, and are shining bright and how! On this occasion of Pride Month, 2018, we bring to you five LGBTQ heroes, who are not just an inspiration to the queer society but to the larger aspect of the worldly society as a whole. They are ones who scripted history by subverting all the regulations and taboos that society imposed on them for being “different”, and in doing so, have taken it upon themselves to rewrite the literature of sexuality and challenge the societal gender politics.
Gauri Sawant, A Transgender Activist Who Became An Inspiration To Millions
Born as Ganesh to a middle-class Indian family, Gauri is an embodiment of the perfect amalgamation of strength and kindness. Seen in a recent Vicks advertisement, Gauri is a social worker and a transgender activist, who has been a champion of safe sex and transgender rights. In fact, she has been one of the petitioners of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgement passed in 2013, that recognized transgender as the third sex.
Since childhood, Gauri has been fighting all the odds to thrive. Now, she is planning to build a house to accommodate around 80 children of sex workers, who long for a normal childhood. Also, despite being illegal, she has adopted a baby girl and is raising her as her own.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
A danseuse, an actor and a transgender rights activist, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a person of many words. Despite having immense talent, success did not come easily to her because of her ‘effeminate’ nature. She was taunted and bullied in school and sexually abused by a relative, but she did not lose hope. She studied further and attained a Post Graduation degree in Bharatnatyam to support her family.
Laxmi recognizes herself as a part of the hijra community and has been one of the founding members of Dai Welfare Society, an organization that works towards the empowerment of transgender community in India. She also represented the Asia Pacific in the United Nations in 2008, where she spoke about the perils of being the sexual minority in a patriarchal society.
Laxmi believes that beauty is all about one’s soul and not about appearance. With the aim help others perceive this innate essence of beauty, she launched the Indian Super Queen beauty pageant in 2010.
Ashok Row Kavi
One of the foremost LGBTQ rights activists in India, Ashok Row Kavi is a journalist and also the founder of Humsafar Trust. Noted for his vocal championing of the LGBTQ community, Kavi also had to face tremendous bullying while growing up. He even had to drop out of his engineering college for all the taunts he faced for his sexual preference.
After getting done with the engineering college episode, Kavi enrolled in Ramakrishna Mission as a monk and studied theology. However, perhaps unlike many other people from the LGBTQ community, he received immense courage from a fellow senior monk to explore and freely express his sexuality. Thereafter, he resigned from his self-imposed monkhood and went to study journalism at the prestigious International School of Journalism in Berlin, Germany.
In order to help other LGBTQ members to come out of their shells and explore their sexuality freely, Kave found the country’s first ever Gay magazine – the Bombay Dost – in 1990. Besides fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community, his organization also hosts innumerable intervention programmes for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases across Mumbai and Goa.
In a world that is exceptionally harsh to women, Pradeep Kumar had envisaged an impossible goal for himself. He always felt he is a woman trapped inside a male body. He wanted to tear off their garb and embrace her sexuality. He also wished to become a police officer – a profession that very less woman strives to achieve, and Pradeep wanted to make this impossible feat possible.
Prithika, as Pradeep later became after her sex change operation, fought exceptionally imposing social dogma, harassment, taunts and gender bias in her road to success. She met numerous failures – failure to pass the medical tests by just “one second” was one of them – but she never gave up until she achieved what she desired. It was on March 31, 2017, that Prithika passed out of the Tamil Nadu Police Academy and took charge as the sub-inspector at a police station in Dharmapuri district. Today, Prithika is not just a successful police officer but an inspiration for not just the queer community but to every person in a country that still recognizes the patriarchal stance.
One of the most noted educationists of India, Dr Manabi Bandopadhyay has been India’s first ever transgender person to complete Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and take charge as the principal of Krishnanagar Women’s College on June 7, 2015. She is the first openly transgender person to have become the head of any college in India.
However, her smile did not last long as soon she was thwarted by non-cooperating colleagues and students. While she has always stood beside her students even at her worse, the students’ union was clearly against her. So, after a year-and-a-half in duty, she resigned from her position.
But, this resignation was not her way to curl back into silence. Rather, she became more vocal about the plight of transgender communities in India. Her sheer grit saw her shining through all odds and was made the Vice-Chairman of the Transgender Development Board, which worked in liaise with the government. Today, the 53-year-old remains one of the prominent and inspirational faces of the LGBTQ community.
Having different sexual preference and orientation does not essentially change a human being or the soul. They have all the rights to live in the world as the “normal” people do. It is time we overcome this stigmas and phobias and learn to embrace people just as they are. Happiness will prevail then.