04 December 2006
Bharatanatyam dancer, owner of nine dance schools. Outcaste turned hero, gorgeous, flamboyant, Laxminarayan Tripathi embodies all the schisms in the world of the dance bar: the ignominy and the freedom, the pride and the pathos. As the voice of an entire community of hijras, she strikes an ironically hopeful note in the last profile in this series.
"Ooh La la! So sexy” gasps Laxminarayan Tripathi in her loud nasal twang, as a young man in tight jeans and silver vest catches her eye. “Tissue paper, sweetheart,” she confides. “One time use only.” Another hijra may have balked at drawing attention to herself in a crowded, upscale Bandra coffee house, but Laxmi, 5’11 in a green salwar kameez and delicate white, beaded jootis, keeps her voice high and leaves the couch often to lope around the room with lanky strides — to meet friends, talk to waiters, visit the bathroom. The former dance bar girl and now social activist is a whirlwind. Dramatic, voluble, sensuous, impossible to contain and welcoming of attention.
Laxmi was born in Thane in 1979, the eldest child of an orthodox Brahmin couple from Uttar Pradesh. Her early years were marred by sickness — double pneumonia, typhoid and asthma. Her parents coddled her, permitting allowances other children couldn’t have dreamt of. “I was their golden boy,” she sighs in flawless English, which she intersperses throughout with chaste Hindi. In the second standard, Laxmi was enthralled by Bharatanatyam, its costumes, make-up and jewellery. Despite their initial discomfiture, her parents allowed her to pursue her passion.
This was the first time the Tripathis confronted whispers about their son. Despite their reservations, Laxmi says they supported her, smiting criticism with “Mind your own business. He’s our child.” She says, “God couldn’t be everywhere, so he created my mother. She’s a gem. And my father is such a strong person, touch wood. Every hijra should have parents like mine.” The little boy in the purple and gold Krishna outfit, wide black eyes accentuated with kajal, soft, perfumed cheeks rubbed red with rouge, continued studying dance in Thane’s Singhania High and Bim’s Paradise schools.
It was at six that Laxmi was first sexually abused by an acquaintance. She will only divulge that the abuse lasted until she turned 12. “Many hijras were abused as children,” she points out. In the ninth grade, Laxmi met Shabina Frances, another hijra. They became friends and Shabina promised her she’d be her guru if she joined them. Shabina, along with some other educated, socially conscious hijras, was the founder of Dai Welfare Society, a Mumbai-based ngo, which works for the community, especially on hiv/aids awareness and access to the medical fraternity.
Laxmi was aware of the hijras much before she met Shabina, aware that in mainstream society the term “hijra” has a derogatory connotation. She says, “People used to call me a hijra for years, and because they did I didn’t want to know about hijras. Eventually, the things you evade, confront you. And now I’m here.” The community introduced Laxmi to the freedoms of living with people similar to her. She familiarised herself with the hierarchy of power and the rules, which she describes in broad strokes, refusing to divulge secrets she believes are her responsibility to protect. “How did I know that I was a hijra?” she mulls. “I don’t know. I asked myself that. I tried to run away, but I kept returning. Even now, it’s a question that’s on my mind 24 hours. But do I want to go back (to the mainstream)? No! My soul won’t allow it.”
By the time she joined Mithibai College, Laxmi shrugged off the last chains of constraint. She was the only drag queen on campus, and describes herself as “slutty, bitchy, and sexy”. Her passion for dance continued, she opened what is now a chain of nine Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance schools, called Lucky Chance Dance Academy in Thane. While studying for a commerce diploma she choreographed dance events and became a model coordinator.
One of Laxmi’s explorations led her to work for five years at the Duru dance bar in Ulhasnagar. She laughs, “If I’d been a woman, I’d have had a kotha of my own! I wanted to be a courtesan,” she adds ironically, “it’s such a respectable job.” Atharva Nair, Laxmi’s friend and assistant at Dai, laughs loudly. “Tell her the truth,” he gurgles. “You wanted to lure men!” Laxmi is unabashed. “He’s a bad boy, but it’s true,” she drawls. “I love to play with men. I joined to see why men frequent dance bars. I would pretend to love them, but I’d think, ‘Bastards. You leave your wife at home and come here to satisfy your whims!’ Luckily for me, I made good money.”
Since the ban on dance bars on August 14, Laxmi has seen many of the bar dancers she knew become prostitutes. She says, “They’re being made to dance naked in the midst of a group of men. They’re dancing at homes, cabarets, indulging in unsafe sexual behaviour. They’re more vulnerable. One case of Tarannum Khan (the dance bar girl in police custody for her alleged links with bookies) doesn’t prove that all bar girls have links with the underworld, or are rich. These false linkages have been created for political benefit.”
Despite the odds, Laxmi is empowered — partly because of her work at Dai, of which she is now the president. Co-funded by the Mumbai District aids Control Society and the National aids Control Organisation, the ngo now has 70 members, all hijras. It organises advocacy meetings with local leaders and the police, is campaigning for the inclusion of the word transgender in the Constitution, and is fighting for equal rights to education and employment.
Laxmi believes getting the mainstream and hijra communities to interact will end the stigmas and misconceptions. Recognition and respect will begin. A recent survey by Dai reports that 49 percent of the city’s 2.5 lakh hijras are infected with hiv/aids. “Hijras are on the verge of extinction, dying like flies,” Laxmi says. She is working on a New Year’s eve programme in Thane which will further interaction with the mainstream.
As the president of Dai, Laxmi earns a salary of Rs 10,000 a month, which she supplements with badhai. She receives 25 percent of the earnings from her dance schools, now run by an array of assistants. On occasion, she makes special appearances in films — she has choreographed and acted in Inder Kumar’s Aashiq and a music video. She appears in an episode of Lonely Planet’s Six Degrees and the award-winning documentary Between the Lines on the Third Gender.
Her education and fluency in English, combined with the continued support of her younger brother Shashinarayan, sister Rukmini and her parents has allowed Laxmi to be part of both the hijra and mainstream communities. The experiences are like night and day. Yet, she says, it is only by inhabiting both worlds that she feels complete. Unlike many hijras, Laxmi hasn’t changed her biological name or left home. She has innumerable chelas or followers, from whom she refuses a portion of their earnings. But with her guru Pinky, a “sweetheart”, she plays the role of chela with gusto. She is the best spokesperson her community could get. “I am respected because of my work and because of how I treat my people,” she says. “Some are in prostitution, fine, I’m not. But they’re still my hijras.” She holds out her hand, “This finger’s mine, and this. Which one to cut? The pain will be mine.”
Laxmi’s insights have led her to be sought out, and she is aware of her own value. “I do charge people for interviewing me on-screen,” she admits, red talons gleaming, long fingers playing with her gold watch. “I don’t charge them like Madhuri Dixit or Aishwarya Rai would, but I do require an honorarium. If the BBC wants to interview me I will talk in pounds. If Discovery wants me I’ll talk in dollars, to a German production I will talk in Euros. This is the time I must earn and save money.”
During this interview, a woman behind us at the coffee shop had been desperate to listen in on the conversation. Unable to bear the suspense, she perches at our table, and says, “I’ll just leave after this call.” Fiddling with her cell phone she tries to unobtrusively absorb Laxmi’s unusual look. When I ask her to leave, Laxmi laughs cordially. “Let her listen,” she says in a sugary voice. “You enjoy yourself baby. It’s good, people should listen.” She launches into a graphic conversation about sex. Mouth open, the girl shuts her phone, exits. Laxmi cackles, “The moment I told her ‘sit and listen’ she ran off! These are the things I do!” These and more.
Dancer turned social activist. Outcast turned hero. Laxminarayan Tripathi may have a sexually ambiguous name, but there is nothing ambiguous about either her achievements or the distance she continues to travel."
“We can be very nasty. I was proud of that. I enjoyed it”
Laxminarayan Tripathi, also president of Dai Welfare Society, an NGO of hijras working for hijras, speaks to Sonia Faleiro about the innards of the community
How would you define a hijda?
Someone who has a hijda’s soul. Unless you have that you can’t be a hijda. Someone who is feminine but not a woman, masculine but not a man. beyond the boxes of man and woman is the Third Gender, and that is the hijda. Someone who follows the rules and regulations of the community, has a guru, and lives in saris. We have our own community, culture, and background. You can be a castrated man and still be a man. You can be a non-castrated hijda and still be a hijda.
So a hijda needn’t be a eunuch?
Not at all. You don’t have to be castrated to be in the community. I’m not. You don’t have to take hormone pills. That depends on your whims—if you want to look more beautiful, womanlier. For those that aren’t castrated, the nearest English word is transgender. The Hindi word for both castrated and non-castrated members of this community is hijda.
The castration is done by a dai. Why?
It has religious and historical connotations. The ancient technique, which we continue to follow. Castration is illegal in India, if it were legalised it would be so good for hijdas. But I don’t want to go into details. These are community secrets.
Is there a class system?
No. There are three sub-groups. Dancing and singing at the birth of a child or at weddings is called Badhai. Begging at streetlights or shop to shop is called Mangti. And the third is prostitution, Dhandawali. Your own abilities decide what you do.
Why are hijdas relegated to only three professions?
There are no schools in which hijdas are allowed. Where there are men, women and hijdas. Without education, how can there be jobs? The British exploited and marginalised the community and we haven’t recovered since then. They saw the power of the Third Gender, their influence among the Nizams, the Rajputs, as holders of the palace keys, as protectors of the queen’s harems, as members of the advisory committee, even as warriors like Shrikhandi in the Mahabharata. The British chopped our power and hijdas needed the permission of the Collector’s office to even leave home. After India gained Independence, hijdas lost their freedom even more. We became more vulnerable. So what remains? Clapping hands, begging, dancing. Otherwise you sell your body for survival.
What does the clapping signify?
It signifies that we are hijdas. It excludes us from everyone else.
There’s also the sari lifting. Have you done that?
I did it for the first time on Navratri, in Thane. I was dancing the garba and this man kept trying to touch me everywhere. He pulled my chain and caught me by my slip. I called my chelas and we danced naked. We stripped off everything and showed him real colour of our community—how nasty we can be. I was proud of what I did. I enjoyed it.
Can you explain the Guru-Chela relationship?
We have an ancient guru-Chela parampara, so you need a guru to be in the community. You can choose you own guru, but sometimes, perhaps in love, you make the wrong decision. A guru is your representative in the community. If she’s good, she’ll teach you the rules and regulations. For example, one must always speak politely to the elderly, never back answer the guru, how to behave in a large group, the songs and dances. A guru will warn you about the good and bad and teach you how to live within the community as well as the external world. A Guru will choose a favourite chela to give her property to. In turn the chela must take care of the guru in her old age and perform her last rites. It’s a parent child relationship.
And who are the Nayaks?
The leaders above the gurus are known the Nayaks. There are seven Nayaks, all in Mumbai. They are the head of the community, and are highly respected. They are our Supreme Court.
Is the guru-chela relationship built on fear?
Always. They can be mad on their power. Sometimes, if the chelas are not strong, their gurus physically abuse them.
What portion of a chela’s earnings does the Guru take?
Earlier it used to 100 per cent, and the Guru would dole out pocket money if she wanted. That’s how the exploitation by the Gurus started. Now it’s 25 or 50 per cent. I’m the rare guru who takes nothing at all.
Are you allowed to speak out about the community? I’m one of the few who is. I’m from a different background than most hijdas, and that made me open to the world. My education, parents, way of living, the fact that I never faced discrimination makes a difference. Today I walk into _Mocha (a coffee house) and no one looks at me. But for another hij it would be harder. I present myself differently than most hij’s because how one looks make a vital difference.
How do you react when people stare at you?
Agar zamana mujhe dekhte hai to mein dekhne ki cheez hoon. To zamana mujhe dekhegi hi. I’m a consumer. I pay for things. I know what my rights are in a democracy. Nobody can stop me. But people do pay comments on the street, particularly where I live, in Thane. I’ve been called proud, a bitch, slut, whore, that I sleep around, and supply girls through my dance classes. But that’s what any proud girl has to hear from men!
Why is the community so quiet about what it does?
It’s a question I keep asking. Why are you so quiet, why don’t you fight for your rights? But if you’ve been traumatized by the non-acceptance of your own parents, it’s very hard to face the world. After that hurt you cannot survive facing the rest of the world.
People fear hijdas. Do you know why?
Misconceptions, like when we die our bodies are hit with chappals, that we steal children. That’s just rubbish, rubbish! If you abandon your child because he has the soul of a hijda, why shouldn’t we keep him? We can’t afford to abandon him as well. Or that once you join the hijdas you can’t go back. Some people do cut their hair, and return.
But it’s funny, because on one hand, we’re respected, because Krishna said when you bless you will be blessed and when you curse, you will be curse. People like to be blessed by us. On the other hand people discriminate against us. Some give us money because of the blessings they hope to receive, others because they want to get rid of us; they don’t want us to clap our hands and lift our saris. This reaction of fear also demonstrates our power. Then there are those who come to hijdas for their sexual gratification, for things women do not provide, like oral sex and anal sex. The times of Khajuraho are gone; we are a conservative country now. But hijdas are still very open.
How does the community view sex?
As lust. Nothing more. But after a certain age, when you reach a certain level in the community, sex is not important, the community is. It’s a misconception that hijdas are promiscuous. That’s like saying all men are promiscuous. Then again, I don’t think monogamy exists. The only monogamous man was Ram, and I doubt that even he was monogamous!
What do you wish was different for hijdas?
Simple—give love, take love. Tum agar mujhe pyar se dekhegi mein bhi tumhe behen karke bolonji. If you talk rubbish, naturally I will curse you, clap my hands and lift my sari. What other alternative do I have? Mein khud hi dukhon se bhari huyin hoon, thhukrai hoon, tum mujhe pyar ki nazron se dekhegi, mere kandhon pe ek soft hand dalogi, I’ll give my heart to you, my soul to you. Accept us. We are one of you. We haven’t fallen from the Seventh Sky. But it will take decades for this situation to change. Mainstream society must be part of this change, it must create acceptance.
Why do hijdas break contact with their families after joining the community?
Because there’s no acceptance. The family is taunted: Hijde ka ma, hijde ka baap, hijde ka bhai. It’s not a rule. I’m still very close to my biological parents and my siblings. We may not have blood relations within the community, but we have strings of relations, entwined to build a rope.
What do you love, and what would you change about the community?
I want the exploitation by the Gurus to end. Everyone should be allowed his or her individuality. This is the tragedy of our community, we’re stigmatised by the mainstream community and then exploited by our own people. It leads to enormous trauma. I love the beauty and colour of the hijdas, the fact that it’s a divine community.
by Sonia Faleiro from Tehelka. November 14 2005. Photos by Sanjiv Valsan
27 November 2006
"It is dusk and the prostitutes of Kamatipura are readying to ensnare their prey. Flanking their clearly demarcated territory are claustrophobic lanes of two-storied sweatshops with glassy-eyed men sewing feverishly by the light of kerosene lamps. In one street of lust, 10 women listlessly dance the dandiya. In a corner, two boys are entwined to the rhythm of a Bollywood song. It is Navratri, but Kamatipura remains a nightmare tableau of desperation.
Gali No. 2 is where the eunuchs reside. In front of their two-storied home a group of tall, bejewelled beauties cluster. It is the 48th birthday of their Guruji, Zeenat, and promises to be a rare evening of celebration. Several policemen stand by, hands held out for a donation. The air is raw with anger. The day before, the police had arrested Nandini and thrashed her with a stick until she paid them Rs 1,200. But if you are a friend you will be cosseted, promised a thick slice of cake and offered a glass of cold water in a silver tumbler.
The most voluble of the eunuchs is Neelam. Her face has been pancaked flawlessly allowing no hint of stubble. Velvety false eyelashes afford her face a hint of luxury. Her thick eyebrows are arched and coloured, her voluptuous lips painted silver. Every part of her visible body is decorated with care, as though it were a shrine. A faux gold and diamond mang ka tikka crowns a chunky necklace, chandelier earrings and bangles. Her cleavage is sprinkled with silver glitter, but her nails are cracked and tobacco-stained. When Neelam isn’t soliciting customers, she helps cook and clean for her community home. Taking out a Rs 1 coin from her choli she hands it to a servant boy who returns with a packet of Goa gutka. Then, on her doorstep, she unravels her life.
Neelam was born Shankar, in Kamatipura’s Gali No. 1, the street of prostitutes, to a prostitute and her husband, both from Andhra Pradesh. His father was jobless and cruel; he beat his wife daily. Shankar was sodomised twice. At 10, on the school terrace and at 11, at knifepoint near a cinema. “Phir mujhe mazaa laga. Maine socha ki mein kuch kama sakoon,” says Neelam, in her thick voice. She speaks softly. She doesn’t want her past to become fodder for local gossip. “Mera dost mujhe bolta, chal na mere saath tujhe tees rupiya doonga.” (I began to enjoy it and thought, why not make some money? A friend would say, come with me for Rs 30, and I would agree). “In those days for Rs 1 you could buy 10 chocolates. Imagine how many I could buy with Rs 30.” At 11, Shankar was soliciting outside theatres. It was soon known than he enjoyed the company of men. One day, a group of eunuchs accosted him. “You enjoy sex with men. Join us.” That year, Shankar’s mother immolated herself in her third attempt. She was HIV positive, and Shankar, who had distanced himself from his family after joining the eunuchs, hadn’t spoken to her for months.
Shankar moved from Gali No. 1 to Gali No. 2. He underwent rites of passage. Allegiance to Zeenat, who became his mentor. Neelam says, “Guruji meri maa samaan hain. Woh mujhe samjhati hai, ‘beta customer ko condom pehna. Tere liye mein hi hoon’.” (She is like my mother and tells me to make the customer wear a condom. She tells me only she is there for me.) Zeenat taught Shankar the secret language of the eunuchs and helped him bear the pain of castration so he could start the process of becoming a she. For Rs 30,000 a dai sliced off Shankar’s penis with a knife, sans anesthesia. For 40 days, bandages soaked in hot oil and warm water were alternated on the wound. He was fed fish and meat to expunge impurities from his body.
Becoming Neelam brought security, but also abasement. She felt a sense of communion, and was comforted. She also knows that however corrupted her life before, as a eunuch she is at the bottom of the food chain. When policemen want a bit of fun, when they want to vent their frustration with a beating, or line their pockets, they head to Gulli No 2. “Even prostitutes have a voice”, says Neelam, sadly. “We have nothing. We may as well be dead.” She knows some people regard her in shades of black or white. Either a beggar or a raucous carouser who will malevolently threaten to ruin a wedding unless bribed handsomely. Either way, a mutation of a human being the public would rather avert its eyes from.
Life wasn’t always this desperate. For three years before the ban on dance bars on August 14, Neelam was a dancer. For two days a week eunuchs were given free rein in the city’s dance bars including the famous Topaz on Grant Road. Their appearance was said to bring luck. Neelam often earned Rs 2,000 a night. She felt “sexy, sexy” and says her beauty made an American photographer shoot him in the nude. “Bikul model jaise thi,” she reminisces melancholically. (I was just like a model.) The ban destroyed the one thing that brought her pleasure and pride. It also made prostitution her only source of income. She charges Rs 50 for sex. Half of her day’s earnings go to Guruji, a further Rs 20 is given to Guruji as “rent” for the space taken in the house when with a customer. She spends Rs 100 on Goa gutka daily and is trying to pay off a loan of Rs 50,000 by saving Rs 300 a day. The rest is spent on clothes from Chor Bazaar, and on gold for her sister who lives and studies in a college in Andheri. Neelam hasn’t visited her for four years, his “shame” at what he has become, he says, will not permit him.
Now Neelam lives with 10 other eunuchs in a 7-room building, which includes bathrooms and a kitchen. They are given meals of egg curry and tomato chutney twice daily at 2 p.m. and midnight. On the weekends, they feast on mutton ghosht and chicken. For breakfast, the eunuchs spend their own money on tea and bun-muska from a restaurant. Like her meals, everything in Neelam’s life is a choreographed ritual. She is expected to know her space, to occupy just that and no more. But no one can steal her memories. She craves for her sister and cries for her mother. Then she wipes away the tears and gets down to business.
The police have left, and the chief guest has arrived: the eunuch Lakshmi is revered by this group as their mother figure. When she enters, shimmying out of a red Maruti van, all talk ceases. The eunuchs alternate between standing to attention, and fawning over this six-foot tall vision in white, accessorised with gold, her curls a halo above her head. Lakshmi doles out hugs and kisses. Her effortless sensuality will disconcert the most determinedly heterosexual man.
Lakshmi sashays to the second floor and like lambs, all follow. A 10 feet by 10 feet room with green walls is decorated with silver and purple streamers. Everyone squats trying to be as close as possible to Lakshmi. Her power is an irresistible magnetic field. The air is thick with cigarette smoke and the music of her throaty laugh and American twang. She screams in English: “You hijdas are so dramatic! Just get the cake yaar and lets start the party!” Zeenat, dressed in what seems to be a wedding sari, is coy but glowing. She stands quietly as a mammoth pink cake with red and yellow stripes is placed before her. The soft light from two candles brings a smile to her face. Zeenat blows out the candles and we sing Happy Birthday. Lakshmi carves a piece of cake and smashes it into Zeenat’s face to raucous laughter. Someone switches on the music and a mujra wafts across the room, through the window and down the street. Potential customers strolling past listen, captivated.
An elderly eunuch with flowers in her hair hands out the cake. Everyone digs in except Lakshmi. She is dancing with abandon. A young woman, hair down to her waist, joins Lakshmi. Someone points, “She once earned Rs 16,000 in a bar in one week.” Lakshmi graciously says acknowledges that there is no space for two divas on the floor. “I’m a budhi next to her,” she smiles.
In half an hour, the cake is consumed, the party over. We troop down. The eunuchs gossip in the glow of a lone streetlight. In this filthy street, Neelam, dressed like a bride, plies her trade each day. She says she’s afraid she is HIV positive. She’s been tested four times, not once returning for the results. “I’m happy,” she says. But the smile doesn’t reach her eyes. She listens for the footfall of lonely men searching for company. She sighs: “Sometimes, it’s better not to know the truth.”
by Sonia Faleiro in Tehelka, October 22 2005.
Photo credits, Sanjiv Valsan.
20 November 2006
Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgendered — that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant — each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgendered people.
We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred based violence, especially since the events of September 11th. Yet even now, the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored. Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives. This trend shows no sign of abating.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgendered people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgendered people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.
Location: Calcutta, India
Cause of death: Blunt force trauma
Date of death: November 20, 2005
Rani, a young hijra from north Calcutta, had been left to live separate from her family, and usually slept on the pavement. Her killers found her asleep, dropped a heavy stone on her head, and left her to die. She died from injuries from this blow.
Location: San Diego, California, U.S.A.
Date of death: November 21, 2005
Cause of death: Stopped breathing during a melee with sheriff’s deputies
Facen, 35, was in the custody of San Diego police after being found naked and bleeding inside her neighbor’s home on November 17th. While it is unclear as to why Facen became violent while in police custody, signs indicate that it was her treatment by officers — who insisted on treating her as male while in custody — that contributed to her actions.
Unknown person wearing womens’ clothing
Location: Northridge, California, U.S.A.
Cause of death: Beat to death with a garden hoe by John Freeman
Date of death: November 27, 2005
The victim, 31, was at Freeman’s house when neighbors reported hearing a heated argument. She was allegedly attacked by John Freeman, who struck her with his fists, feet, and a hoe. Freeman had a casual relationship with the victim prior to the murder.
Location: Oak Cliff, Texas, U.S.A.
Cause of death: Shot to death
Date of death: December 4, 2005
Walton, a forty year old, died shortly after midnight in the 3200 block of Linfield Road in east Oak Cliff.
Location: Milan, Italy
Cause of death: Stuck by a car
Date of death: December 8, 2005
Oliveira was a twenty eight year old Brazilian transgender woman living in Italy. She was deliberately struck by a vehicle.
Paulina (Juan Pablo MŽndez Cartagena)
Location: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Cause of death: Shot to death
Date of death: December 18, 2005
Paulina worked for Integral Sexuality AIDS Support Organisation (OASIS). She was in Guatemala city with a second transwoman when four men on motorbikes, wearing police uniforms, ordered them to stop — then shot both of them. Paulina was shot twice in the head, and died minutes later. Sulma, the other victim, survived three gunshot wounds.
Alexis (Brandon) L. King
Location: Nicetown, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Cause of death: Shot to death
Date of death: February 3, 2006
King, 21, was shot to death in the pre-dawn hours of February 2nd by Terron Oates who was found by police at the scene. Oates confessed to the murder.
Location: Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A.
Cause of death: Shot 3 times
Date of death: February 9, 2006
Twenty one year old Tiffany Berry, identified as a pre-operative transsexual, was shot and killed at the Camelot Manor Apartments in South Memphis. While investigators have said this was a robbery homicide, Berry’s purse was wound, intact, with her body. Police claim that Berry’s transgender status had nothing at all to do with the murder, while others outside of law enforcement disagree. Anyone with information in this case is asked to call Memphis Police Homicide at 545-5300.
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
Cause of death: Shot to death
Date of death: February 15, 2006
Yardena Marsh, the first known Israeli to have genital reassignment surgery, was found dead by her sister in Marsh’s Tel Aviv apartment. Her confessed killer, Ze’ev Bisso, initially claimed that his gun had accidently fired and struck marsh.
Gisberta Salce Junior
Location: Porto, Portugal
Cause of death: Beaten and stoned to death
Date of Death: February 22, 2006
Gisberta was a homeless transgender woman who had been living in a shelter for many months. Her death was a violent one, lasting for several days as she was repeatedly beaten, sodomized with sticks, burned, kicked, stabbed, and stoned by a group of up to fourteen teenagers. After she expired, they dumped her into a ditch.
Melissa “Mo” Green
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.
Cause of death: Shot to death
Date of death: March 21, 2006
Twenty-two year old Melissa Green was shot from behind, by a single bullet, in what seems like a planned killing. She bled to death from her injuries before paramedics arrived on scene. Anyone with information in this case is asked to call Phoenix police at (602) 262-6141, or Silent Witness at 1-800-343-TIPS. There is a $2,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest of indictment of the murderer.
Location: Mahotari district, Nepal
Cause of Death: Suffocated
Date of death: March 30, 2006
Rupesh was a thirteen year old transgender girl living in the Mahotari district of Nepal. Rupesh’s father, Tapeshore Mandal, had banished her after discovering that she was going to meetings of the Blue Diamond Society, the only organization in Nepal for sexual minorities. While she did rejoin the family after promising to stop going to the BDS, her father continued to abuse and neglect her, and said that he would kill her unless she stopped presenting herself as female. Her mother found her body. The father claimed that she had poisoned herself, but a most-mortem indicated that she died of suffocation, not poisoning.
Location: Stockton, California, U.S.A.
Cause of death: Beaten to death
Date of death: May 20, 2006
Dibble was a 34 year old nurse. was severely beaten and left to die on the corner of Miner Avenue and Sierra Nevada Street in Stockton, California. Dibble died from injuries sustained in the beating while at a stockton hospital. Anyone with information in this case is asked to call either Detective Robert MacDonald or Detective Ed Rodriguez of the Stockton Police Department at (209) 937-8323
Sudha, aka Lakshmi
Location: Tiruchy, India
Cause of death: Throat slit; also multiple stab wounds to the genitals
Date of death: May 26, 2006
Sudha was a transgender sex worker in India. She was picked up at the Central Bus Stand on May 25, and her and a male, likely her murderer, checked in at a private lodge. She was found there, in a pool of blood, after her throat was slit, and after several cuts to the genitals. Police suspect that Pandian of Taranallur was her killer.
Barbara (Geovanny) Calderon
Location: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Cause of death: Drive-by shooting
Date of death: June 10, 2006
Calderon, a Honduran, was murdered in a drive-by shooting attack, part of a string of violent acts against sex-workers and transgender people in Guatemala. Two other transgender women, and one gay male, were injured in the attack.
Lupita (Juan Carlos Charria)
Location: Gardolo-Trento, Italy
Cause of death: Stabbed multiple times, allegedly by Engjell Ndreca
Date of death: July 29, 2006
Lupita, a twenty nine year old Colombian, was a sex worker in Italy. A client of her’s, Engjell Ndreca, is believed to have stabbed her five times. When captured by police, he nitially claimed Lupita was his “boyfriend” and that she was HIV-positive, but several contradictions have appeared within his story.
Lezlie Anne Field
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Cause of death: Multiple gunshot wounds
Date of death: August 2, 2006
Field, a thirty one yer old transsexual American living and working in Thailand, was initially believed by police to have committed suicied in the apartment she shared with a Thai friend. The suicide note left with her appeared to be a forgery, and was not written by Field.
Location: Riverside, California, U.S.A.
Cause of death: Internal injuries, allegedly by Alex Mendoza
Date of death: August 15, 2006
Vallejo-Seiber was a three year old who was repeatedly called a “sissy” by his father, Alex Mendoza. Mendoza also often slapped his son in an effort to “toughen him up,” and urged him to beat up on Vallejo-Seiber’s Elmo doll. Mikey Vallejo-Seiber died in a local hospital from internal injuries sustained from being kicked, punched, and dropped on his head. He was in Mendoza’s care at the time. His mother Pamela Seiber, pleaded guilty to child endangerment and was sentences to six years in prison.ÊMendoza has entered a plea of not guilty.
Edgar Cano Camacho
Location: Milan, Italy
Cause of death: Stabbed multiple times
Date of death: October 19, 2006
Camacho was a forty one year old Peruvian living in Italy. She died in her home after being repeatedly stabbed in the face.
10 November 2006
See the tax-collecting eunuchs
Eunuchs are feared and reviled in many parts of India, where some believe they have supernatural powers.
Often unable to gain regular employment, the eunuchs have become successful at persuading people to part with their cash.
The eunuchs will get a commission of 4% of any taxes collected.
In Bihar's capital, Patna, officials felt deploying the eunuchs was the only way to prompt people to pay up.
"We are collecting taxes for the municipal corporation, collecting money from those who have not paid their taxes for years," said Saira, one of the eunuchs on the streets of Patna.
"Tax payment is necessary. When the corporation won't have any money how will they look after the people?"
Accompanied by police officers, the eunuchs approached shopkeepers and large defaulters on their first foray into tax collection.
"Pay the tax, pay the Patna Municipal Corporation tax," the eunuchs sang as they approached Ram Sagar Singh, who owed 100,000 rupees (£1,180), the AFP news agency reported.
Mortified by the commotion, Mr Singh reportedly agreed to pay up within a week.
The eunuchs collected about 400,000 rupees on their first day of work, authorities said, sharing 16,000 rupees (£188) amongst themselves.
Bharat Sharma, a revenue officer, told the Associated Press agency he was pleased with the eunuchs' work.
"We are confident that their reputation and persuasive skills will come in handy," he said.
06 November 2006
By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Karachi
Going by the name of Begum (Lady) Nawazish Ali, she hosts an eponymous talk show that has taken Pakistan by storm.
Flirting and skirting her way through politics, society gossip and plain old sexual chemistry, Begum has become the most popular icon to inundate Pakistani fantasy in a while.
How is this possible in Pakistan where what is acceptable behaviour from female actors is still largely determined conservative Islamic values?
The answer lies in the identity of the Begum - who is a woman in every sense except the biological one.
"I am God's child," says a smiling Begum Nawazish Ali, or Ali Saleem to give him his birth name, talking to the BBC in his "normal guise".
Clad in jeans and T-shirt, 27-year-old Ali talked passionately about his life and work.
"As long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a woman," he declares.
Twirling his shoulder length curly brown hair, Ali looks wistfully in the distance as he recounts how it was growing up in Pakistan for someone so unconventional.
"My father was in the army and we used to move around quite a bit," he says.
With his parents, he accepts there were problems, leading to his examination by a psychologist when he was 14-years-old.
The psychologist, however, allayed all fears, and "from that time on my parents were totally behind me".
That Ali was different from other boys was quite evident from his interests.
"I loved playing with dolls and dressing up with my female cousins to whom I have always been very close," he recounts.
In those days of innocence, he would often dream of becoming a woman.
"I wanted to be Sri Devi, Nazia Hasan, Benazir Bhutto... all the beautiful and powerful women in my world," explains Ali.
Gifted with a great voice and a natural sense of the theatrical, he delighted in displaying his talents.
That was in the early 1990s in Islamabad. Soon after, in 1995, Ali shifted with his family to Karachi.
This was "the worst period in my life", he confesses, with his parents going through a divorce.
It was during these depressing days that Ali met "Yasmin, who made everything possible".
Yasmin Ismail was one of Pakistani television's finest actresses, who died of cancer last year.
"She was the best thing that ever happened to me," says the screen star.
Ali explains how Ismail introduced him to theatre, groomed his natural histrionics and generally played the part of his mentor.
"She was my mother, father and best friend," says Ali wistfully, adding "I give her 100% credit for any success I have achieved."
Ismail was involved in a popular theatre group called Gripps, and that was where Ali started out.
"My first performance was in a play called 'Art ya Atta' (Art or Bread) in May 1998," Ali says. He did an impersonation of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the play.
"When I spoke, there was pin drop silence and then the house came down," he exclaims.
The applause was thunderous and the show did record business.
The next six years were those of learning and growth. During these times, Ali expanded his repertoire with considerable success.
In March 2004, the idea for transvestite chat show hostess Begum Nawazish Ali first came up during a discussion with friends Nadeem Baig and Omar Adil, a national TV host, in Lahore.
"Omar said that he saw me as much more than the typical characters I was doing and we came up with the idea of this middle aged divorced socialite who knows everybody," gushes out Ali.
Initially, Ali promoted it with GEO, one of the largest TV channels. That deal failed to materialize and rival channel Aaj took up the challenge, quickly putting out a pilot.
"Nadeem was Director entertainment and he told me to bring it over," Ali explains. Aaj moved quickly, and a pilot was soon out.
"It was like nothing anybody had seen," says Azfar Ali, a local television producer. "The most amazing thing was the fact that he was able to deliver it all in a way that the masses could relate to it."
No sooner had the first programme finished than the show was the talk of the town.
From politicians to movie stars to sportsmen, all have had their turn on the show.
So popular has the show become that a sitting federal minister specially requested to be invited.
That may have been unnecessary, as Ali smiles and declares saucily, "I never refuse anyone anything".
The show is not without critics, who accuse it of trivialising politics in a country that has had more than its fill of dictators.
Ali denies this, saying "our politicians have been destroyed under a well thought campaign", adding "I want them to be popular again".
Furthermore, he says that the military - such a powerful influence in Pakistan - have been deliberately kept out of the show.
"I believe that democracy is the only option for us, and this is my contribution to the cause," Ali says determinedly.
He also wants to show what kind of country Pakistan really is, in contrast to the 'Terrorism Central' nation that it is often portrayed as."And I will do it," Begum exclaims and, smiling seductively, adds "after all who can resist me?"
03 October 2006
In the garish yellow light of the naked bulb, their painted faces look larger than life. They are the 'nachya poras' of Bin Baykancha Tamasha — an eclectic version of the traditional tamasha featuring male dancers in female form.
"Aho suna raaya, sanga mee kashi diste?" asks the lead dancer coquettishly, and the audience collectively sighs, to break into loud clapping.
Says Anil Vasudevan, who conceptualised and choreographed Bin Baykancha Tamasha, "This performing art elicits unexpectedly uninhibited responses from the audience, particularly to male dancers."
Vasudevan, a dancer, who put in over 30 years at Mafatlals at a desk job, and then gave it up to adopt choreography as a full-time profession; does make-up for Bharat Natyam artistes, besides choreographing classical and folk performances. In the last two years Bin Baykancha Tamasha has given over 250 performances, and an elated Vasudevan says his boys have enthralled disparate audiences including housewives, politicians, businessmen and corporate executives.
Tickets are priced between Rs 50 and 100, and therefore the dancers are still paid only Rs 200 to 500 per show. The singers are a huge draw, especially Vinay Koli and Jayesh Kale who sing in both male and female voices. Koli who works in Syndicate Bank by the day, says that it is a gift from God. "I cannot act like a woman or dance like a woman, but I can sing better than one!" So is he constantly requested by neighbours and others to sing in both voices? "No, I can't do that," he says candidly. "It's only when I am on the stage that I open my mouth and the voice just pours out…"
Do the dancers ever face an identity crisis? Nitesh Jadhav who is hailed as the most exquisite 'woman' in the show replies in the negative. "It doesn't affect me. Once I wear my sari, I become a woman.” Rajesh Sukant Bodke who is a lecturer at Bodke Classes, and Anil who runs a telephone booth, feel that they would be unable to find this kind of admiration in any other profession, and that the little discomforts do not count in the larger picture.
However, Vasudevan admits, "Some men in the audience do laugh at them, but the women simply love them! They are great performers and ultimately that's all that matters."
The seduction is complete, right from the moment the mujra begins, with the dancers making a dramatic entry, their backs to the audience; and then flinging off their pallus and turning around to face the audience… The Gavlan song follows and then the tongue-in cheek Karbhari Damana, the boisterous Kheltana Rang Bai Holicha and the ever popular Ya Ravji, Basa Ravji…
Clearly, here are Mumbakars eager to take in a spot of culture, not out of the ordinary for a city that thrives on the unusual and the unexpected.
Source: Mumbai Mirror - (contributed by Jaya)
Watch a Video of a NDTV report on the same subject: Men no Bar
19 July 2006
On her childhood
My real name Pankaj Sharma. My father (Bobby is not comfortable naming her family members) was an English professor and a bank employee. My elder sister is a perfect housewife, while my younger brother is a fashion designer. Even as a child, I was an introvert and would only play with girls. The first time I dressed up like a girl was when I was in the eighth standard. I would often apply lipstick and wear saris from my mother's closet. By the time I reached class 12, I had a serious relationship with a classmate. My parents were alarmed and took me to various specialists including a sexologist and a psychiatrist. My father used to beat me for my sexual preference too. But I don't blame my parents for it. They weren't to blame.
Moving to Mumbai
I was aware that if I did anything to affect my father's social status, he would kill me. To avoid such a situation, I eloped with my boyfriend just before my exams. We travelled like a happy couple all across the Asia and Europe. It was very exciting. After two years, I got a call from my dad, saying that mom was unwell and she wanted to see me. I was by her bedside when she died due to kidney failure. Just four days after her demise, my boyfriend called our relationship off saying that he had to fulfil his responsibilities towards his parents. He got married, and now he has kids too. I headed straight to the bathroom and emptied a bottle of phenyl down my throat. My father saved my life. Constantly teased by friends in college, I left Delhi, with Rs 8,000 in my pocket. I decided to move to Mumbai.
Life in dance bars
As the train entered Bombay Central, I began to feel scared. I had heard odd stories about Mumbai. I knew no one in the city. For 15 days, I lived in railway stations, sleeping on the platforms. People would often taunt me and call me names like 'chakka', 'hijra', 'chikna'. It made me cringe. Later, I managed to find a roof over my head and moved to Malad, where I stayed in a house with four girls who used to work in a bar. They informed me that a gay dancer in their bar was earning enough money to sustain himself. Luckily I found employment there. My features are like a girl's, so very often customers would get confused and make indecent proposals to me. But soon, I began to feel stifled and started to look for roles in TV serials. I would walk down from one office to another the whole day. At 5 p.m I'd go to work at the bar. I never went to bed before 1.30 a.m in those days.
Becoming Bobby Darling
The initial days were very humiliating for me. I still remember how Makrand Deshpande had laughed at me. I realised that in order to find work I would have to re-invent myself. Is dhande mein dikhoge nahin to bikoge kaise (if you don't look good, how will you sell?) I was ill-treated by many filmmakers. They would call me gur (meaning jaggery, a slang used by Mumbaikars for gays). Bobby was my pet name. Director Lawrence D'Souza suggested that I add 'Jaan' after my name. Other names recommended were Bobby Chikna, Bobby Sexy, Bobby Hot. Once, when I went for an audition at N Chandra's office, he asked me my name. I said, "My name is Bobby Darling". His eyes lighted up immediately. He liked my name and promised to give me work.
My first film was Subhash Ghai's Taal, in which I played the role of Aishwarya's make-up artist.They shot for 19 days with me, but when the film released I was barely there. I felt bad, but what could be done about it? Later, I worked with Hrithik Roshan in Na Tum Jano Na Hum. He was very sweet to me and always greeted me with a hug. Recently, I met him at a party, and he doesn't seem to have changed at all. Even Salman Khan is very fond of me. I am also grateful to Moon Moon Sen and her daughters for all their help.
I am in the process of undergoing a sex change. I am taking hormonal injections which will develop my breasts. I am counting on laser surgery to remove my body hair. I am not yet sure where I'll get the surgery done. In India, it will cost me Rs 4 lakh, but in USA the cost will be about Rs 10 lakh. I would prefer the US, as such surgery is done there on a regular basis.
Life after films
Things are looking better for me. Now, my father talks to me. I am getting better roles. I have my own apartment in Oshiwara, and I have recently bought a car. I feel secure. Now, I am focusing on my sex change. I want to live like a woman. Plans after sex change After my operation, I will not return to India. I will quit Bollywood, because I am sure that people will make a mockery out of me. They will say, 'Pehele gay tha, ab heroine ho gaya hai! (Earlier he was gay, now he is an actress)'. I don't want to get humiliated after spending so much money. Perhaps I will become a pole dancer. I know I will have to start from scratch, but then I have never been afraid of challenges. . The initial days were very humiliating for me. I still remember how Makrand Deshpande had laughed at me. I realised that in order to find work I would have to re-invent myself. I was ill-treated by many filmmakers. They would call me 'gur' -
source: Mumbai Mirror, India interview by Ram Kamal Mukherjee
12 July 2006
I condemn these terror tactics used by whoever it maybe and whatever cause.
I pray for peace and that one day human beings can live without harming others!
05 July 2006
03 July 2006
Pic: Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi at the Dai Welfare Society office in Govandi
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a eunuch from Thane, has hung her dancing shoes. Only to spend her time and energy in serving her community as president of the Dai Welfare Society in Govandi.
A professional Bharatnatyam dancer, Laxmi started learning the dance form when she was 12 years old.
“It was a hobby which I started in class VII. Initially, four students joined my dance class in Thane (West),” she said. Today, over 300 students have been enrolled in nine Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance schools, started by Laxmi, named Lucky Chance Dance Academy.
While doing a commerce diploma, she choreographed dance events and became a model coordinator. She went on to do a postgraduation in Bharatnatyam from the University of Mumbai in 1996.
“After that many students joined my dance class,” she said. Apart from dance classes, she did stage shows, took part in Bollywood flicks and later worked at Topaz Bar in Bandra (East).
On her journey to self-discovery, Laxmi worked for five years at the Duru dance bar in Ulhasnagar.
“I wanted to be a courtesan. It’s such a respectable job,” she said, with a laugh.
Atharva Nair, Laxmi’s friend and assistant at Dai, laughs loudly at this. “Tell her the truth,” he said. “You wanted to lure men!” Laxmi is unabashed. “He’s a bad boy, but it’s true.”
Another eunuch said, seeking anonymity, said, “Today Laxmi focuses her full time towards social activities. Even today, she is fit to dance like before.”
For a cause: Founded in 1999, 'Dai Welfare Society' in Govandi—an NGO formed for the support of eunuchs—now has 4,000 members in Mumbai and Thane.
It instructs lakhs of eunuchs on how to deal with AIDS. It holds 6-7 AIDS awareness
programmes at railway stations, BMC hospitals, gardens and bus stops every month.
29 June 2006
Thank you for visiting my blog. I am happy that so many people have visited my blog (over 5500 hits since Dec 2005). I have opened a new blog which is called 'One from the heart' which will be more of a personal blog, with features like Girl Talk! (Part 2 is posted), and my own articles will be published. Thus Malika's Transgender Blog will be a more of a news and information blog .
Please leave your comments as they give me a possibility to understand what you like or dislike about my posts.
28 June 2006
ROME - Among the most pressing orders of business for Europe's first "transgender" lawmaker may be fighting over which toilet to use in the Italian parliament.
Italian transgender election candidate Vladimir Luxuria gestures during a news conference at the Foreign Press Association in Rome February 22, 2006. The 40-year-old from Italy's main communist party is a candidate in the country's general election in April.
Elected last month, Vladimir Luxuria said on Thursday she was opposed to toilet "apartheid" after a centre-right lawmaker suggested the creation of a special, third lavatory for all transgender politicians.
In Italy, and all of Europe, that means just Luxuria.
"I didn't expect politics to sink this low," Luxuria, a 40-year-old drag queen and defender of gay rights said in an interview with the online edition of Corriere della Sera daily.
Born Wladimiro Guadagno, Luxuria prefers to be referred to as a she and expressed a general preference for women's bathrooms. She suggested women reacted better than men did.
"There are many difficult moments in the life of a transgender and even some embarrassing ones, like the use of public bathrooms. Maybe we go to the ladies' toilet because the men get embarrassed," Luxuria said.
Italy's first transgender lawmaker Vladimir Luxuria, who entered parliament under the Communist Refoundation party's banner, waits for the results of the vote for Italian lower house speaker Fausto Bertinotti at the Montecitorio Palace in Rome April 29, 2006.
The transgender toilet, Corriere said, was suggested by a newly elected lawmaker in the lower house of parliament, Lucio Barani, a member of centre-right opposition.
Barani said in a statement it would avoid embarrassment.
Luxuria, who has dressed in low-key women's suits since entering the world of politics, is keen not to be considered a novelty along the lines of porn star Ilona 'Cicciolina' Staller who sat in the assembly in the 1980s and was famous for her impromptu stripteases.
Among her campaign issues was a promise to seek legal recognition of civil unions by homosexual couples.
"The apartheid of urinary segregation is not an issue that moves me particularly," Luxuria said. "I don't want the privilege of having a toilet all to myself."
It is not the first time that Luxuria has found herself under attack by the centre right.
Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Italy's wartime fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, attacked her on state television when she was asked by Luxuria whether she wanted to lock up homosexuals.
"Meglio Fascista che frocio ! " Better a fascist than a faggot," Mussolini snapped.
See the Video clip of the above discussion in Italian: