By Merril Diniz:
January 12, 2019, was a beautiful day in Kolkata; transwomen from across the country came together at “The Third Eye: The Awakening” forum to talk about the support, opportunities and connections that can help improve trans lives in India. The artist Kalki Subramaniam who began channelizing her creativity into painting at age 12, and prominent trans women like Rudrani Chettri and Gauri Sawant, spoke powerfully on their struggles and successes.
A sentiment that was touched upon several times by most panelists, was the need to be accepted socially, aside from all the legal frameworks taking shape in our country. The acceptance of trans people at colleges, workplaces and all other spheres of life, instills confidence and a sense of belonging; our society will be richer for it, and future generations will thank us for embracing our differences.
In this context, it gives me great joy to see trans women finding a home on the SHEROES app, engaging with cisgender members across our health, relationships, careers and creative communities, among others.
Our very own in-house celebrity Tanvi D, a photographer by passion and profession, an active member of SHEROES Arts, Crafts & Photography community, got an opportunity to be on a panel at The Third Eye, and share her life nuggets.
This Trichy girl has had many struggles but what we see, today, is a woman aligned with her inner self, slowly building her narrative in the world.
The woman’s hostel she resides at in Chennai is supportive. She has developed VFX skills to supplement her career as a photographer.
A sentiment she candidly shared on the panel is, that when she is offered a lower remuneration due to her trans identity, more than financially, she is hurt emotionally.
When we demand equal pay for equal work, why must transgender people be excluded from this basic human right?
A photographer par excellence, Tanvi is not one to sit still for long. After the panel, throughout the event she was on her toes, capturing all the wonderful moments from that evening, and the images you see in this article are taken by her. You can also read more about her journey to the woman she is today, here.
Access and opportunities are the cornerstones of growth, and one of the most impressive activities at The Third Eye was that trans women got to showcase their businesses.
Fashion designer Diyasha who has created a “gender flexible”, made-in-India, upcycled fashion brand, stood on the podium, pitching her venture to a group of investors. We need many more such platforms and segments, to offer a gentle nudge, and fuel the engine of entrepreneurship, which in turn fuels job creation.
What followed were two more power-packed activities – a live auction of artist Kalki Subramaniam’s artwork, the proceeds of which went into training and mentorship of trans artists.
And a fashion show, chronicling the spirit of trans people.
Trans and cisgender people walked the ramp together, where undoubtedly, the showstopper was trans model Sandra Nandeibam from Manipur.
Her walk is so Tyra Banks-certified fierce, she could be blazing all the top runways of the world!
Bappaditya Mukherjee, founder of the NGO Pranthakatha and a panelist shared that Kolkata may soon receive its first medical facility fully equipped to support trans people. As he broke the news, he pointed to a young transwoman in the audience who was successfully trained as medical technician, and a young transman, who now leads HR at an IT firm and is responsible for hiring cisgender people, among others.
When I recently chatted with a bright young techie girl about the event, with a giggle, she muttered under her breath, “red light district”.
I don’t blame her for low her awareness levels but welcomed it as an opportunity to educate, especially of the fact that her field, IT, has been welcoming of trans employees. There have been instances where trans people have been known to feel more included in office, than beyond those walls.
Transgender people are excelling in multiple fields, from IT to design, and entrepreneurship. There’s simply no dearth of talent, hard work and hunger to succeed, in the trans community. Yet, the everyday, relatable, conversational, social acceptance is missing.
Rudrani Chettri, who launched India’s trans model agency, leaves us with a powerful question on basic human relatability, “If you see a trans person, would you walk up to them and start a conversation?”
I’d like to end with a note on the force behind The Third Eye, a platform that SHEROES is honoured to partner with.
Put together with much love and some hardship, by the Kolkata based-event entrepreneur, Vayajanti Saharia Pugalia, she shares how, in the run-up to the event, she was questioned several times, why she, a cisgender woman, was hosting a conference around trans rights and dreams
To this she had a pretty logical response, “Why the heck not?!”
Photo credits (includes cover): Tanvi D photography
Merril Diniz is Head of Communications at SHEROES, a writer at heart, and passionate about the women’s narrative. She has been a SHEROES community member since 2012, and loves the idea that women supporting women can make for a more progressive, awesome world.