31 March 2006
Human rights protestors demonstrated against the visit to Paris by Nepal's Crown Prince demanding an end to what they called a "sexual cleansing drive" aimed at transsexuals.
Carrying black flags, gay rights and AIDS activists joined other human rights protestors and exiled Nepalese demonstrated at the Eiffel Tower.
Crown Prince Paras is reportedly on a private visit to Paris.
The protests come a week after Human Rights Watch reported that transsexuals and HIV/AIDS outreach workers in Nepal's capital Kathmandu are under increased scrutiny by police.
Human Rights Watch first raised the alarm in January after groups of transgendered women, called Metis in two separate incidents were attacked by police and the military.
Human Rights Watch says the situation has gotten increasingly worse. Earlier this month police rounded up 26 metis. According to the Blue Diamond Society, a Nepali organization working in the fields of sexual rights, sexual health and HIV prevention, they were taken to the Hanuman Dhoka central police station in Kathmandu.
Five were later moved to Kalimati police station. Human Rights Watch understands that as of March 16, they have still not been permitted to speak to a lawyer. All have reportedly been charged with committing a "public nuisance."
"This is the latest incident in a violent police campaign to 'cleanse' Kathmandu of those considered undesirable," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Police regularly assault and in some cases sexually abuse transgender people, all in the name of enforcing 'moral values.'"
Those arrested included two staff, two outreach workers, and two peer educators working for the Blue Diamond Society.
Photo: A Nepali Sister
29 March 2006
24 March 2006
Narthaki, though not a natural born woman, specializes in depicting bhava laden nayaki roles and a lot of research goes into her productions. Narthaki established her dance school Narthaki Nrutya Kalalaya in Madurai in 1989 and recently in Chennai. More than 100 students including overseas students are being trained in her schools. Artistes who face the same identity crisis as her are treated kindly and welcomed.
I hope I have done justice in my English translation of what she expressed in beautiful Madurai Tamil.
(‘We’ in the interview refers to Narthaki and her childhood friend Shakti who shares the same gender problems).
When did you first realize you were different?
From the time I knew what life was, the only things I experienced were taunts and rebukes. I was about 7 then and did not know how to express myself the way I do now with courage and conviction. I could not understand in what way I was different from the other boys, only that I felt more safe and at home with girls. I knew I would be thrashed if I expressed my thoughts and remained silent.
We have come up the hard way, faced so much scorn and censure and lived in fear. People born like us generally take the easy way out and go into the oldest profession in the world. But we did not let the shame and rejection break our spirits. Our grit and determination to carve a name for ourselves as respected artistes has brought us where we are today. I have spent many a moment shedding tears in my house terrace or by a lonely pond, ruminating on why I was born like this, but the desire to overcome these hurdles and shine was uppermost in my mind.
We did not want to be like something on show. Maybe like some tidbit in Dina Thanthi that says, “He suddenly became a woman” or, “ Sita has become Ramu”. My case is nothing like that. If you could look into my heart, you will see the agony and scars. I am in no way inferior to a woman when I do my nayaki roles. Not every natural born woman is a successful dancer or leads a trouble free life. In no way have I spoilt my life by living life on my terms.
When did your interest in dance start?
As far back as I can remember I was always interested in dance, wanted to dance to an appreciative audience and excel in my art. I used to get opportunities to do 3 to 5 minute dances for functions and small events. I did not know formal dance as such, my imagination helped shape my movements. So, unknown to my family, I used to give performances and wipe all traces of makeup for fear of punishment before coming home, but they always managed to find out.
Since you had no formal training at that young age, who / what was your inspiration?
I used to see films, especially films that had dance in it. Vyjayanthimala in “Parthiban Kanavu’ was so inspiring, Padmini’s dances were classy, Kamala’s style was different. I used to imagine I was Padmini or Vyjayanthi. We would see the late show in Madurai Anapanadi and on the way back home, at 2am on the deserted Thennamara Road, I used to do my interpretations to my one-member audience, Shakti. Dogs belonging to the gypsy settlements by the roadside would chase me sometimes; I’ve even been bitten! How would they know I was dancing!! I could hardly tell my family and tended to my wounds myself.
The aftermath of the film dances used to be with me for a week and it irked my family to see me making eyes in the mirror! I would be spanked and the misery made me resolve many a time to try to be like any other student, study and go for a job. That would last only till the next offer to dance maybe in a temple and I would get back to it with renewed energy! My makeup stuff would be hidden in various secret places, so I would start gathering them in readiness, organize for a wig and so on. I used to get lots of prizes but gave them away as I could not bring them home.
Who was your first teacher?
Seeing my dance, many advised me to get a good teacher and learn dance the proper way. An elderly relative, who visited my house frequently and recognized my talent, could not bear to see me treated harshly and took responsibility to get me a good teacher. Unfortunately, for him dance and drama were same and he took me to a stage actress who used to act in all night plays and sleep through the day! I finally had to plead that I wanted to learn dance and not acting! She was kind enough to single out a teacher Namanur Jeyaraman from the Thanjavur bani to teach me, but we had to travel to Sivaganga to meet him. The meager funds provided by Shakti enabled only me to accompany the actress to Sivaganga. Shakti and I had started dance together but now, for the first time, Shakti’s ambitions took second place and she sacrificed everything for me from then on.
How old were you then?
About 12. I was thrilled to enter the hallowed halls of guru Jeyaraman’s house, and saw the photos of Kamalahasan’s sisters who had learnt from him. But the teacher was extremely ill and bed ridden and my heart sank. He asked me to pray to Goddess Meenakshi that he would recover enough to teach me when he came to Madurai for medical checkups.
Surprisingly, I got a card from him a month later to get a space ready for classes. But where? There was a school nearby which used to open very early for the Trustees’ children to play in and we used the opportunity till we were found out! After that it was in homes of known people who could not tolerate ‘the noise’ after a couple of classes. Finally, a good soul in a slum 8 km away offered his hut for my classes. That was a good 90 minutes walk from my house.
When was this?
Around 1982. My guru was skeptical when he saw the place, but he obliged on seeing our eagerness to learn. Shakti had left school after 9th class and the money she used to get from working in her family textile business went towards paying my guru for my dance classes which cost Rs.80 a month and Rs.20 for his conveyance. That was a lot of money for us at that time. I used to pretend I was going to the temple at 5am, Shakti used to come from her house and we used to rush all the way across town to class and despite walking for 90 minutes, I danced so vigorously that my guru used to get tired just watching me! On the way back, we used to bring vibuti and kumkum to substantiate our claim but our families had their suspicions all the same!!
In the course of a year, I learnt a full margam and got ready for my arangetram in 1983. I presented ‘Mohamana’ in bairavi, a saveri Jathiswaram, husseini Padam, kanada Thillana in rupaka tala. ‘Mohamana’ is my favorite piece and I think I dance it quite nicely because I see people enchanted with my performance.
How did your arangetram go?
I actually had the audacity to personally go to the Madurai Mayor’s house and invite him to be chief guest. No one believed he actually would, even my family whom I finally informed, but the Mayor did keep his word and it was a great event at the Thamuka Maidan in Madurai where many important functions take place. Shakti and I had to cycle across town to collect the wig and we returned just in time for me to make up and start. From then till now, we do our own makeup. It rained heavily but I felt the heavens were blessing me. I was the talk of Madurai that evening.
What about the orchestra?
My guru had his own group. He sang and did the nattuvangam. He used to sing beautifully. Venu on the flute, Thyagarajan on the mridangam were all experienced vidwans who accompanied stalwarts like Sikkil Ramaswamy. My guru died a month later. It was as if God had kept him alive for a year just to teach me and conduct my arangetram. I started giving many performances after that.
How did you become Kittappa Pillai’s student?
Being a fan of Vyjayanthimala, I wanted to learn under her guru too. Kittappa Pillai had just received the Isai Perarignar Award and I knew from magazines that he was then at Thanjavur after returning from his travels abroad. So, we rushed off to Thanjavur to become his students, which was easier said than done. To become his student is nothing short of a miracle. He said he had heard about me but he had a hectic travel schedule in India and abroad. He would ask us to attend Vyjayanthimala’s performance in Bangalore or Sudharani’s performance in Chennai and on seeing us there, he would wonder why we were there! It was hard on us financially, but we persisted relentlessly for nearly a year and like a miracle, he one day announced, “Come tomorrow. We will start class”. We rushed back to Madurai and returned the following day with the flowers and fruits for guru dakshina.
It is the most unforgettable moment in my life. When I started my adavu classes under the great guru Kittappa Pillai in the fabulous hall of the Ponniah Natya School for the first time, I was brimming with happiness. It was like heaven. The more I danced, the more I felt I was nearing the treasure at a rainbow’s end. In a year, I learnt a full margam. He usually did not teach rare compositions to everybody on completing a margam, but he made an exception in my case. I felt so honored. However hungry I was, I danced on. His wife, such a kind lady, could always tell from my face and used to have food ready for me when class was over. She passed away barely 2 years after master did.
Where did you stay when you were his student?
I stayed at his house. He has a beautiful hall upstairs.
What kind of a guru was he?
I was always treated as a member of his family. He was so understanding and approachable, that one could go to him for advice on anything from dance to personal problems. After class, he would lay down his big bulk on the bench. I would sit beside him and ask his advice on dance, my fears, my gender problems, if I should continue dance. He always gave me affection and encouragement to pursue my goals. He had confidence in me that I would shine one day.
I have performed in this very same Mylapore Fine Arts in 1987 with Kittappa Pillai doing the nattuvangam. It was for Cosmos Club. He was foremost a great musician and mridanga vidwan, and only then a dance guru. When he got carried away with a student’s dance, he would burst into song himself and sing the raga in an innovative way that was all his own. Nobody could handle Shankarabaranam or Khamas the way he did and the vocalist unable to match his skills would keep quiet and let him sing. The bhavam he gave the ragas was like the gentle drizzle, like the soft wind blowing. His sangatis were out of this world; I have them on my tapes. Once during my performance, he just turned and said ‘Shabash’ (Well done) and that is still in one of my cassettes and I treasure it. I have many cassettes with compositions sung by him.
I think it’s my poorva janma punya (blessings of a past life) that I am blessed to have been his student in spite of the way I was born. To learn from him was a divine experience, I considered him a siddha purusha. Even in his 80’s, his memory power was so amazing; he had better memory than a computer. If I forgot a korvai, he would correct it to perfection. He remembered the smallest movement of an item done many years ago in such minute, exact detail. He was an amazing person. Even 4 days before he died, my guru clarified some doubts I had about a theermanam, which I was to perform in the Dussera Festival.
My guru was very interested in my welfare. He knew his end was nearing and gave me a testimonial in 1995 to help me in my career and that is my most prized possession. He was very appreciative of the nayaki roles I did and advised me to write a research paper on ‘nayaki bhavam’. He gave me lots of tips on that.
Can you elaborate on the ‘nayaki bhava’?
Many males do female roles in a beautiful manner, like Shivaji Ganesan did. Sometimes, the makeup man gets the credit. But I think there’s a difference in the way I do the female roles.
Whenever I start a project or have to interpret a song, I delve deep into the inner meanings, the emotions behind the words, the situation, so I can give the correct bhava interpretations. So, I do a lot of research, read a lot, dissect the pada artha and arrive at the final presentation. Artha should not become anartha!! So, along the way, I have collected some very rare books and scripts and these are my prized possessions, my little library.
What are some outstanding / cherished moments in your career?
It was a wonderful experience that my guru and I worked together as teachers in the Thanjavur University in the Music Dept between 1990 and 1994. I worked as his assistant. After a lapse of 20 years during which no performance had taken place in the Madurai Meenakshi temple, Shakti and I performed there to a massive gathering this year on January 16th.
Are you proficient in music too?
I have a basic knowledge of music. I am going to concentrate more now on learning music. I want to learn better English too, so I can express myself better!
How different is it to perform to a rural audience?
People who come for Sabha programs have a basic knowledge unlike the rural audience and that’s where the challenge lies. I always perform in the remote towns with trepidation and the greatest compliment is when someone comes up to me and cites some instance from my presentation and I know I’ve been understood. I am proud to say I’m a regular performer at these villages and towns.
What response did you get when you opened your dance school in Madurai?
I established Narthaki Nrutya Kalalaya in 1989 in Madurai. I had no problems in getting students, because it was well known that I was guru Kittappa Pillai’s disciple, so students came readily to me to learn. I always perform my guru’s compositions solo. Now I perform duets with Shakti and some group productions with my students.
Shakti has been a great support to you.
Yes, I won’t be what I am today if not for her sacrifices. We started learning together. Due to lack of money (I had none, she had some), she let me reap the benefits. She became Kittappa Pillai’s student much later, but guru passed away before she could finish learning a margam. Now I am teaching Shakti all that I know. Whenever we perform together, she’s Kannan to my Radha, Shiva to my Shakti, nayaka to my nayaki.
How do you see your future?
I feel I have come about half way along my journey, but I still have a long way to go. Shakti and I have made a systematic life for ourselves, a schedule. A time to eat, a time to sleep, a time to rehearse, a time to perform and so on.
Will you teach the rare compositions you know to others or you want to keep it to yourself?
What will I gain by keeping it to myself? I will teach anyone who’s genuinely interested but I must be convinced that this person will retain the purity of the composition. My guru preserved intact what his guru taught him, I want to do the same and I want my student to do likewise.
I have also done some novel interpretations of old themes from the works of Subramania Bharathi and Bharathidasan and some rare and little known pieces centering on heroine oriented themes from Thevaram, Thiruvachakam, Thirupugazh, Divya Prabandham and other religious epics.
I am looking for someone who will dance like me one day, with the same nayaki bhavam. Even after 200 years, I must live on in history as an outstanding dancer.
22 March 2006
The Conference will be held at the same time as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, an international forum which has failed to this day to recognise us and our rights. It will be another opportunity to remind the UN of the imperative necessity to explicitly declare that sexual orientation and the free expression of gender identity are human rights.
Alternatively, you can let us lead you through this short presentation to become more familiar with the role and importance of ILGA's conferences within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Movement worldwide.
Check the programme for two preconferences called Transgender Caucas and Transgender Issues
From sexual abuse by drunken men to taunts from women and beatings from policemen, eunuch Jereena says she will “bare it all” in her autobiography, the first by a transgender The 128-page book titled “Autobiography of a Hijra (eunuch)” and written in Jereena’s mother tongue Malayalam, spoken in the southern Indian state of Kerala, is slated for release by the end of March.“Nobody in India knows how we struggle for a living nor how we feel when people insult us,” said Jereena, dressed in an orange sari and a green blouse and wearing ear rings, glass bangles and a necklace.“I thought I will write a book to tell them about my life’s experiences. “People who read my book will know the pain we undergo every day, every moment of our lives,” Jereena, 46, told AFP in an interview at her “hamam,” or bath house, as the eunuchs’ brothel is referred to.
“I will bare it all in the book.” Jereena, who uses only one name, left Kerala aged 18 for the southern city of Chennai and shortly after moved again, to settle almost 20 years ago in India’s high-tech city of Bangalore.
“When I was in my fourth standard (grade) I came to know I had a liking for men. I had sex with the principal when I was only nine years. My brothers and parents started bothering me with threats when I told them I wanted to become a eunuch,” Jereena said.“I had to stop my education after passing tenth standard. I knew I have to leave my hometown if I want to become a eunuch. I left my village at the age of 18,” said Jereena.
“Soon I realised the life ahead (would not be) easy,” said Jereena, who heads the eunuch community in Bangalore. “I have to engage in prostitution and begging to eke out a living.”
Men, she says, throw eggs and rotten tomatoes at her and other eunuchs when they walk the streets of Bangalore, and women jeer and scream.
Drunken men often beat eunuchs after having sex with them, police beat them for soliciting customers, and customers sometimes refused to pay, Jereena said.
Doctors often refused the treatment, believing “we have HIV/AIDS,” and no one would give them jobs. “All this will feature in my book,” Jereena said.
“I sell myself to keep the pot boiling. There are eunuchs out here who survive as dancers in bars and by going from house to house in search of a new born baby,” Jereena said.
India’s estimated one million eunuchs are regulars at Indian festivities, entering homes uninvited to bless babies and regularly gatecrashing weddings.
Jereena, who was married to a man for six years but divorced under pressure from her in-laws, said she wanted her autobiography to be educational.
“The purpose of the book is to make others understand and accept us. For example do you know that I have an adopted son. He is not a eunuch and he works as a fruit vendor,” said Jereena.
“Do you know that I work with my colleagues to encourage them to use condoms?” Jereena said. “People think we are without a heart. My book is an attempt to change that and every other negative perception they have.”
21 March 2006
Representatives from Transgendered Voices, Inc., a Colorado-based non-profit corporation, are in town to encourage eunuchs to take up sewing and make clothing for not only the “heavily-built transgender Americans”, but “all kinds of special sizes” not available at readymade stores.
Elizabeth Jeffords and Florence Vanmalderen. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
In town since yesterday, Elizabeth Jeffords, executive director of Transgendered Voices, told The Telegraph: “We want the hijras from here and other parts of India to be self-dependent financially. Ninety-five per cent of hijras that I have met in this country are sex workers. They have not explored other options of sustenance. We are trying to assist them through creative and intellectual activities.”
The fact that there is no wearable option today for Americans “who are not of standard size” could open up a busy new world for a community languishing in bylanes.
“Even 50 to 70 years ago, you could have got tailors to make you specially-sized skirts for transgenders and other big and small people,” said Jeffords. “But now, you only get standard sizes off the racks at the malls. So we have been getting junk clothing made from the lowest levels in China and the Philippines. And now, we want to establish business with India, to get quality clothing at the same price, and help the hijras in the process.”
Having already established a base in Bangalore, Transgendered Voices is hopeful of the response from the Calcutta community. “Although it is not a political theme, I don’t feel a communist society like Calcutta should be any different from a capitalist society like Bangalore. I expect a greater support from the West Bengal government to help them be empowered individually.”
During her week-long stay in the city, Jeffords and her business manager Florence Vanmalderen will meet “important people” like police authorities, AIDS Council representatives and the secretary of the state women and child welfare department.
“To provide a platform for this project, we are having a special dinner at the new Salt Lake convention centre, Rotunda, on Saturday,” said Koushik Chatterjee, chief executive worker of The Bodhi, a local organisation helping out Transgendered Voices. “We want the eunuchs to meet Jeffords and feel comfortable about the proposal.”
But will it help wipe out the social stigma? “Once they start working, they will earn the respect they deserve and merge into the social fold,” said Jeffords, looking forward to seeing Shabnam Mausi (a film on India’s first eunuch MLA).PRATIM D. GUPTA for The TELEGRAPH, Kolkata
14 March 2006
She would say she would have liked to be like a Hindu goddess with a thousand arms. So tht she could do all the thousand things at the same time. I would have liked to help my mom but I would not be allowed.
"Go away from the kitchen, you're a boy"
But so many times, I wanted to tell her, "Mom, I want to help you, please let me" But either I did not have the guts or the understanding as to why I felt like this.
And then one day, when everybody was away and I was alone at home. I dressed up in my mom's silk saree, put kajal in my eyes, put on a bindi, wore her glass bangles, her silver payals. I sat down on the bed and put on the TV, watched the TV serials that I would die to watch, the cookery programs, make-up help, fashion. I read her Woman's era and Femina. I felt like a woman, like somone I would have liked to be. This great day would become my routine for a few years. I would wait for days when the whole family went out and I would feign some imaginery fatigue or stomach ache. Now I was dressing three or four times a week. I became an expert on draping the saree. The gestures that I had studied watching my mother and other women became second nature. My hands automatically pulled the saree edge over my fake breasts, I would use the pullu to cover my shoulders, I would hold up my pleats when I went into the bathroom. I would tuck the pullu around me whn I made tea.
Then one day the inevitable happened. I fell asleep dressed in my finery and woke up to loud laughter. I opened my eyes and before me stood the whole family.
My brothers were laughing but were visibly embrassed, angry, disgusted. My father walked away mumuring something. My mother stood there, a smile on her face. She said " My god! You really know how to wear a saree. "
They all left me there on the bed. I did not know what I should do. Should I run to the bathroom and change or should I be brave.
My mom came back again into the room. She studid me and then sat down next to me.
"Why are you wearing my sarees?"
I thought for a while and then looked up at her and said " I want to be a girl!"
She got up. She said you think being a girl is dressing up in a saree?. I didn't say anything.
"So, you want to be a girl?"
She got up and opened the cupboard and took out a cotten sari and threw it next to me. "You can't wear a silk saree and do housework, my dear". She left the room. I sat there my heart racing, what do I do?
She came back a few minutes later "What are you doing? Change your saree and come into the kitchen, there is work to do".
I took the cue, I quickly took off the expensive silk saree and put on the 'house saree', an orange cotten one. I meekly walked into the kitchen.
My mom looked at me and laughed. Lets see if you can be a girl she said.
She handed me a tray with a teapot and cups. "Take this and serve them their tea!"
This was my mother's idea of womanhood.
I took the tray with shivering hands and went out into the sitting room. They sat there watching TV. They looked up at me, their mouths agape.
"Don't be shocked! 'She' wants to be a girl so she is going to be one, lets see how long 'her' desire lasts."
There was a howling round of laughter and sarcastic jokes.
But my mother was soon to be surprised by my resolve to be a girl.
Paintings by: Shuchi Krishnan
Godhuli & Spring
10 March 2006
(New York, February 21, 2006)— The Guatemalan government must take immediate steps to stop a pattern of deadly attacks and possible police violence against transgender women and gay men, and end impunity for these crimes, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Guatemalan President Oscar Berger.
(Photo: Twenty-one year old Melissa Simpson is a transvestite sex worker in Guatemala City. She is part of OASIS, a project to improve the lives of the sexual minority in Guatemala.)
Eyewitnesses reported that the assailants were wearing police uniforms and riding police motorcycles that identified them as members of the national police. The assailants shot Paulina twice in the head, killing her immediately. They shot Sulma three times, and she is still recuperating from her injuries.
Paulina, a former sex worker, worked for the Organización de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al SIDA (OASIS), a nongovernmental organization that works to prevent HIV/AIDS and to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Sulma is a volunteer with OASIS and a sex worker.
Since the attack, Sulma and other transgender sex workers have reported being subject to undue police surveillance, causing them to fear for their lives. According to Sulma's report to OASIS, police warned her that, as witness to the attack, her life is in danger. OASIS said that its office and personnel have been under undue police surveillance. According to OASIS, the Office of the Public Prosecutor has made no further investigations into the attack since preliminary investigations in late December.
"These cold–blooded shootings are just the latest tragedy in Guatemala's pattern of deadly violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity," said Jessica Stern, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "The police have not done enough to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and now there is concern that they may be responsible for someone's murder."
LGBT people in Guatemala regularly face attacks and threats. In 2005, at least 13 transgender women and gay men were murdered in Guatemala. On December 21, two men in an unmarked car with tinted windows robbed two gay male sex workers at gunpoint in Guatemala City.
In the space of a single month, three gay men were murdered in Guatemala City late last year. Luis Sicán was shot to death on November 6 in Guatemala City’s Zone One. Flavio José Morales was shot to death in Zone Three of on October 12. Héctor Osmín García was shot to death by a security guard on October 7 while distributing flyers for a beauty salon. According to OASIS, there have been no prosecutions in any of these cases.
In its letter to Guatemala's president, Human Rights Watch outlined several steps that the government should take to end the violence and intimidation targeting LGBT people in Guatemala.
First, the government must ensure prompt, thorough and impartial investigations of the December 17 shootings — as well as other similar attacks reported over the past year. The authorities must also ensure that those responsible for these crimes are brought to justice.
In addition, the Guatemalan government should end any undue police surveillance of Sulma and other transgender sex workers, of OASIS and other NGOs advocating for the rights of LGBT people in Guatemala.
Human Rights Watch recommended that national police work with representatives of LGBT and sex worker communities to introduce sensitivity training in accordance with human rights principles to end discrimination against LGBT people and sex workers.
"Sulma has good reason to fear that the people who attacked her could strike again,"said Stern. "Guatemalan authorities must take immediate steps to protect LGBT people and hold their assailants accountable."
Human Rights Watch sent letters today detailing these human rights abuses to President Oscar Berger, the Office of the Minister of the Interior, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, the national police, the Solicitor for Human Rights, and the Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala.
Source: Human Rights Watch
09 March 2006
ROME - Vladimir Luxuria will ditch the sequins, feather boas and bouffant wigs when she enters Italy’s parliament. The drag queen says she will be Europe’s first transgender member of parliament. and wants to be seen as a serious politician.Born Wladimiro Guadagno, the former organizer of Italy’s gay pride parades, considers herself neither male nor female but dresses as a woman and prefers to be referred to as "she."Luxuria has shot to national fame by running for parliament where she is practically guaranteed a seat at April’s general election by teaming up with the country’s main communist party.
“I’m going to be the first transgender to get into a parliament in Europe,” Luxuria, 40, told Reuters in an interview.
“It’s a way to say to people: don’t judge me by the way I look, don’t judge me by my sexual orientation. Please, judge me by my ideas.”
Reaching out to gay voters, Communist Refoundation has put her very near the top of its party list. With the party likely to get at least 6 percent of the vote, Luxuria’s place as a lawmaker is assured.But Luxuria, who stars in an upcoming film playing a Neopolitan transvestite who enters politics, is keen not to be considered a novelty candidate along the lines of porn star Ilona ’Cicciolina’ Staller who sat in the assembly in the 1980s and was famous for her impromptu stripteases.
'Parliament is not a theatre'
The drag queen dressed down for a recent news conference, wearing a trouser suit with a orange jacket and said she intended to attend parliament in similarly conservative but feminine clothes rather than her cabaret attire.“Parliament is not a theatre, it’s not a discotheque. It’s already revolutionary that a transgender gets into parliament. It wouldn’t be useful to provoke in such a stupid way.”
Luxuria’s political stand for gay rights contrasts sharply with Italy’s deep Catholic roots and the hostility to gays shown by many of its politicians.
The European Parliament rejected Italy’s choice for European Commissioner, Rocco Buttiglione, a member of the Catholic UDC party, because of his belief that homosexuality was a sin.
Despite attacks from government supporters, Luxuria jokes that she has something in common with image-conscious Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is lampooned in Italy for apparently wearing built-up shoes that make him look taller.“He wears make-up, like me, maybe a little bit less but he does. He wears heels, so sometimes, at least aesthetically we have more in common than he would think.”
A new view of Italy?
The center-left 'Union' coalition, led by former European Commission President Romano Prodi, has pledged to establish some form of civil union for homosexual couples, although gay groups say the wording is not clear enough.Luxuria said she will work in parliament to establish full legal recognition of such unions, but stressed that she is not pushing for adoption rights for gays, such as exist in Spain, because “Italian society isn’t ready to accept it.”While Berlusconi’s center-right coalition, campaigning on traditional family values, hopes that Italians will be put off by the sexually ambiguous Luxuria, the center left hopes her presence will demonstrate a modern, tolerant view of Italy.Last year an earring-wearing, openly gay man, Nichi Vendola, was voted governor of the southern region of Puglia, delivering victory for Refoundation and humiliation for Berlusconi’s party.“I think Italians are a bit more mature than many of the politicians who claim to represent them,” said Luxuria.
Three Cheers for Vladimir!
08 March 2006
The alarm goes off next to me. I wake up and try to put it off but I can’t find it. Alex, my partner mumbles in his sleep “Mmmm!”
I find it finally and press the snooze button. He turns around and snuggles up to me. I feel the warmth of his body against mine.
“Wake up sleepy head” I say. He mumbles in his gruff morning voice and kisses my neck. We stay in bed under the quilt for another five minutes. The alarm goes off again.
I drag myself out of bed a few minutes later. I put on my dressing gown over my nightie. I can hear him singing under the shower. I enter the bathroom, and pull the shower curtain apart and look at him standing under the shower. He splashes water on me. I laugh and playfully admonish him.
In the kitchen, I put the water heater on and start washing the dishes from last night. The radio tells me of all the horrors that happened in the world.
What was it to feel like a woman. Some of my friends told me that just because I was socially living the life of ‘woman’ it did not make me one. After all for them, I was being the caricature of a woman. But to be frank, I feel like doing all the things I was doing for him. I feel a enormous ‘niceness’ inside me when I cook for him or iron his trousers and shirts, tend to the washing, clean the house. He isn’t very good at all this. He can manage but not as well as I could do these things. I do not think that I can do all this better because I was socially ‘trained’ to do these chores. I wasn’t… as I was born and raised like a ‘boy’. He in return would do all the things I was not good at doing. He was very good in fixing things, changing fuses, putting up shelves etc . I am not good at all these things, I never was or maybe I wasn’t as interested in honing these skills. I guess I was more interested in reading about recipes, more interested to chat about household chores and tricks. Cooking up a super meal gave me a better high than fixing a flat tyre. I prefer Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City to Alien or Star wars. I prefer a chiffon dress than a pair of chinos. When I see a woman, I find myself looking her nail colour, her ear rings, her hair-do, her purse than checking out her ass. I do check out her ass but in comparison to mine. I prefer looking at Fashion TV than the Live telecast of the
I feel that he participates in our life in his way and I do my share. We are different but complimentary.
So he leaves for work, and before he leaves he holds me in his arms and whispers… “I love you baby” He pulls out a small gift wrapped packet and gives it to me.
I am thrilledddddd!!!
He leaves. I watch him from the window.
I wish all a Happy International Woman's Day!
02 March 2006
Canada has some of the most transsexual/transgender friendly immigration laws in the world. Transsexuals and transgender persons (from male to female or from female to male) can immigrate to Canada to enjoy improved civil rights, benefits, and the protections of a tolerant society.
There are two primary ways to immigrate to Canada - being sponsored by your Canadian partner or applying to immigrate based on your own merit to obtain permanent resident status.
Once you become a Canadian permanent resident (landed immigrant), you could apply for Canadian citizenship in three years.
If you have a Canadian partner (including a permanent resident of Canada), you may be able to get sponsored as a spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner. Transsexual and transgender persons (persons who change their sex legally or at a pre-operation stage) can be sponsored as a spouse since both opposite and same sex marriage are legal in Canada. A common-law partner is similar to a domestic partner and is defined as a life partner who has been living together for at least one year. So if you have been living together with your Canadian partner continuously for at least one year, he/she could sponsor you as his/her common-law partner. A conjugal partner is like a common-law/domestic partner but no cohabitation is required. Conjugal partners can be a couple who maintain the life partner form of relationship for at least one year but are unable to live together. The separation may be due to visa requirements or restrictions, or fear of prosecution of homosexuality, common in some countries.
Please have your sponsor fill out Family Class Free Assessment to see if your partner is eligible to sponsor you as a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner.
Skilled Worker (Independent), Entrepreneur, Investor, Self-employed:
If you are single or in a same-sex relationship but neither of you are Canadian citizens or Canadian permanent residents, you can immigrate to Canada based on your own merit if you qualify as a Skilled Worker (Independent), Entrepreneur, Investor, or Self-employed. As a same-sex couple, you can apply together by submitting one application. You can choose a principal applicant who qualifies under one of the categories and his/her partner can be included as a common-law partner in the same application.
The Skilled Worker (Independent) category is one of the most popular categories since you can apply based on your own merit without having a Canadian partner or Canadian company to sponsor you. You are assessed based on your education (PhD/master's, bachelor's, or trade/non-university certificates/diploma), work experience (1-4 years of work experience), language skills (English and French), age (21-49 gets the maximum points), adaptability (having a relative in Canada, previous study/work in Canada, and spouse/common-law partner's educational level), and arranged employment in Canada. If your points are more than the passing points that CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) sets, you can apply to immigrate as a skilled worker (independent).
The Entrepreneur category applies to those who have a business management experience and planning to manage a business in Canada. The Investor category is similar to the entrepreneur category in terms of requiring a business management experience in addition to investing $400,000(CAD) in the Canadian economy. The Self-employed category applies to those who are in cultural or athletic fields or farm management.
Read Austin's article from Advocate.com "Gay? No Prob. Welcome to Canada!"
If you have additional questions regarding transsexual/transgender immigration to Canada, please check FAQ for more information.
For same-sex immigration, please check Same-Sex Immigration for Gay and Lesbian.