03 December 2008

Bangalore: Sex change racket - Financer arrested

Bangalore City police have today arrested a financier for his alleged involvement in a major sex change racket in the city.
The police, who had busted the racket yesterday with the arrest of two eunuchs for kidnapping a boy and coercing him into prostitution after his sex was changed, had succeeded in arresting kingpin Rajanna from the city and they were on the look out for a doctor, who operated the boy in Andhra Pradesh, the sources said.
They said the ninth standard student had been identified as Chandrashekhar of T Dasarhalli in the city. He was taken to Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh for the sex change in March, when his parents had filed a missing complaint with the police.The racket involves in kidnapping, castrating and eventually forcing them into begging and prostitution.
The boy revealed that he had gone to Kadapa and underwent a couple of surgeries and got his sex changed before being named as Shilpa. The only son of labour Venkatappa was then forced into the business of prostitution and begging. The money he collected from the day was given to Rajanna, who had financed his surgery in Kadapa. Rajanna had also made the arrangement of Rs 50,000 for the breast transplant in a city hospital.
The boy has been admitted to Victoira hospital for rejuvenating his genitals. The Chief Minister's office has come forward to bear the medical expenses for the operation, they added. According to a report, there were about 25,000 transgenders in the city.

Source: http://mangalorean.com/
Bangalore November 10, 2008

Anita Khemka

A beautiful story titled Paal (gender)

Kollywood will be witnessing a new genre of film. The transgenders seem to be setting foot almost everywhere from television anchoring to arts. This time, it’s a new film starring a transgender heroine. The film is titled Paal also meaning gender in Tamil. It is the story of the neglected state of transgenders in the society today. The director of the movie Shivakumar to understand what it felt like to be a transgender has spent a full two months with them in Mumbai. The result of this two-month hunt was Ms Karpaka, who has now been roped in as the heroine. ‘Paal’ will launch choreographer Kadhal Kadas as a hero and paired with him will be Karpaka.

Yet another interesting feature is that the assistant director of the movie is Living Smile Vidya, another transgender who rose to fame with her book, I am Vidya, recently. ‘Paal’ is based on the relationship between the lead pair and how Karpaka fears letting out her original identity to the man she loves and thus avoids him and his love. Karpaka plays the role of a short film maker. Whether she is accepted by the society she belongs to, and the man she loves, forms the climax. The shooting of this film is progressing well and slated for an August release.

see more photos of Ms Karpaka

08 July 2008

I was imprisoned in a male body, until a surgeon's knife cut me free

By Gazal Dhaliwal
Photo: Sanjay Ahlawat

Soon after I turned 13, my mirror stopped being my friend. The school uniform added a compulsory turban to my head, and nature added hair to my face. Clothes were nice if they were my mother's and long hair was fine when it was in plaits, instead of being wound inside a turban. Games were fun as long as they were 'Teacher' and 'Housekeeping' and not cricket; preferred companions were girls and not boys. But then I was Gunraj from Chandigarh, today I am Gazal, 25.

And if you just looked at my picture again to check how masculine (or feminine) I look now, I will not blame you. It is the most natural reaction from a society, which unconsciously enforces a rigid distinction between genders. Any blur on this line is generally laughed at. Yet, I must tell you the story of my gender change, my liberation. Because there are thousands of people who feel trapped in their bodies. They hide instincts for fear of rejection, uncertain whether it is right to feel and want what everyone around them finds wrong. I want people to know how I survived 25 years in a role I did not choose for myself. A role which I played day after day without any hope of the curtain falling.

When I was often told that I was girlish, I was totally confused. The condescending voices opened taps of guilt deep inside, but somewhere even deeper, rivers of happiness sprang from that acknowledgment of my true self. But the happiness made me feel guiltier because no one told me that it was all right to be happy.

One of my happier childhood memories is of a school drama, in which I played a female character. During rehearsals, I was the most excited actor. Dressed in a pretty skirt for the performance, I told my father that I would be adjudged the Best Supporting Actress, if my performance was good. Best Supporting Actor, he corrected. I argued and tried to pick holes in his argument. But reason and logic were on his side; I only had a mess in my head. A transsexual child is forever trapped in this quest for identity, and in finding ways to evade the mocking laughter and derogatory names hurled by taunting peers. There is a sinking feeling all along that I do not fit in, that I never will fit in.

Puberty is a tough time for everybody, a time when one tries to understand one's sexuality. In that age of unanswered questions, I distinctly remember getting goosebumps watching a provocative music video by a male pop singer. And in the numerous sleepless nights that followed, it dawned on me, for the first time with a sense of absoluteness, that I was different, and would always be. For years to come, I was to think how unfair it was of God to make me gay.

But thankfully God did not leave me without anything. Today, I do not value academics much, but through my growing up years, I was considered a "bright child", "good orator" and a "very disciplined student". But for me my worth was in my singing, writing and histrionics. Recently, when I met my ex-schoolmates and teachers, they had high opinions about my student days. Said one, "Gunraj, I used to think it so unfair that you had every enviable quality in you." While another said, "I wouldn't have imagined you as anything, but a truly happy child."

I give my family the entire credit for still having been able to retain a sane mind. My stress found an equal opposition in the love I constantly got from my parents, my extended family and later, my friends. Initially, my parents could not comprehend how a boy could feel like a girl, yet they never gave up trying to understand, and never gave up on me. They would ask me to try and change the way I thought. I would wail: "It is not about the way I think, it is about the way I am. I do not choose to be like this, Papa. I was born this way. Why don't you go and try living as a member of the opposite gender?"

They did not punish me even when they found out that I would impersonate a girl and chat to strangers over the phone. When I ran away from home before my board exams, they brought me back and loved me even more. My brother, sister and relatives stood by me and held me tight when I teetered at the edge of a precipice.

The board exams went well, so did the entrance exams and I was admitted to a well-known engineering college. Thus I went to spend four years of my life in a boys' hostel. I was prepared to be an oddity there, ready for the remarks-"Always goes to the bathroom to change!" "Speaks so effeminately!" "Walk is so girly!" What I was not prepared, however, was for the severe ragging. Despite those unmentionable horrors of the first year, those four years are the most beautiful time of my life. In the cacophony of mocking voices and laughter, there were a few precious faces, which became my dear friends. I think it was in those years that I started realising that it was all right to be happy with myself. College life gave me freedom and the chance to explore my extra-curricular interests. Besides singing, debating and directing college plays, I would sneak out and watch late-night movies and go on trips with friends.

After completing college, I found myself sitting in the massive office of a software giant, gazing at the computer screen. A studio apartment, the company bus, my desk and the office dormitory summed up my entire world. I was rated among the top 10 per cent of the company's 20,000-strong work force. I never objected to an 18-hour workday because it kept me from the jeering whispers in the corporate hallways.

It was hard to trust anyone now. The fear of rejection kept me from accepting anybody new in my life. I desperately wanted to run away again, but I realised that the only thing to run away from was my own self. There were times, however, when the pangs of loneliness were so acute that I would look for a companion in gay websites. I would also meet men occasionally, but they were looking for a 'man' in me-my whole life had been about not being one. Gradually, I understood that gender dysphoria is not the same as being gay. While the causes of stress in both conditions might be similar to an extent, the conditions themselves are quite different.

A homosexual man, for instance, might have no problem in wearing a formal shirt and tie to office every day, while that particular dress code of my company was one of the three main reasons I decided to quit! My extremely peaceful and dull place of posting was the second. The third reason was an attempt to 'fit in' somewhere.

So I moved to Mumbai-my city of dreams. I was doing a one-year diploma in filmmaking. I was I happy that I had made the right career choice, and filmmaking was a sedative to the pain I could never completely learn to live with.

A year passed in a flash, and it was time to choose subjects for our final documentary films, which had to be made in groups of six. When I proposed 'Transsexuality' as a theme, only two friends who knew my condition raised their hands in support. That was perhaps the most important moment of my life. Soon enough, three more friends joined in, and the group was complete. The title suggested was 'To Be or Not To Be'. It sounded perfect, but something inside me said that it would change. The new name occurred to me the next morning-To be… ME.

I had never had any plans of coming out of the closet for the film; but that was the case with all the transgenders we met. Soon I realised that I was expecting others to face the demons, which I could not face. Now it was time to accept, love and celebrate being myself. Almost magically, the day I decided to face the camera, we started discovering others who were willing, and even excited, to share their stories! In my heart, I knew it was God's way to tell me that He supported my decision. To Be… ME turned out to be the best film of the year.

I had been reading about Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) for many years, but my research for making the film had reassured me that it was not only all right to be happy, but it was my right to be happy. "So, when are you going for it?" was the first question my father asked after seeing the film. And ever since that question, there has been no looking back.

A year-and-a-half ago, I started my gender reassignment procedure, which will probably go on for another year. Frankly, this period of transformation is not one of the most convenient-socially, physically or emotionally. I was fortunate to be hired as an assistant by a veteran filmmaker and the staff at my office is truly godsend. They do their best to understand the issue and go out of their way to ensure my comfort in this period of transition. In the last 20 months my inner-self is slowly, but surely, taking its form in the mirror. I am thrilled to get compliments that I have always pined for, and it is musical to hear the taxi driver ask, "Madam, kahaan jaana hai?"

On October 19, 2007, my male genitals were replaced by female genitalia through vaginoplasty. Dr Chettawut performed the surgery in Bangkok. Currently, I down four tablets a day, a part hormone therapy, which has to be continued throughout my life. I am also undergoing electrolysis for removal of facial hair. This will continue for one more year. Finding myself cost me around Rs 5.5 lakh, including Dr Chettawut's fee of $7,000.

Thailand is renowned for male-to-female SRS. In my three-week stay, I saw patients of different nationalities, races and ages. Dr Chettawut performs around 20 vaginoplasties every month. It melted my heart to see a middle-aged woman accompanying her 'husband' for 'his' surgery. The 'husband' was a transsexual woman. I had read on the internet about such cases, where a spouse turns into a companion for a transsexual person, but to actually see it was like witnessing the purest form of love.

The surgeon's certificate identifies me as an "infertile female". Both are strong words. For most, the first might be stronger; for me, it is the second one. Being a mother, after all, is not just about the ability to give birth. Being transsexual, also, is not just about looking masculine or feminine. And the condition itself is not psychological. The bottom line is that gender dysphoria needs a medical correction. And an SRS is only as unnatural as any other surgery.

The sooner a transsexual person can start their gender reassignment procedure, the easier is the transition, and the better, the visible results. But at the same time, one must be mature enough to understand one's priorities. If 'infertile' is the stronger word for you, or if you're doing this for anybody except yourself, think again!

I still have a lot of catching up to do. I badly need to get some humour and spontaneity into my life. Then there is an urgent need to catch up on clothes, shoes, earrings and makeup. But there is this one thing I caught up with, recently and not many people do that-Life!

Published in 'The Week' dated 09-03-2008
Visit Ghazal's Blog http://gazalhopes.blogspot.com/

09 June 2008

SHE was HEre (sic)

Tuesday March 18 2008 10:19 IST
on NewIndPress.com

by Manu Vipin

DRESSED in a black and white skirt and figurehugging top with a matching gold necklace, long earrings and anklets, she looks fresh even after a night-long dance performance.

Only the trace of stubble and a gruff voice call your attention to the battles she has fought.

The talented classical dancer and the director of Lakshya Performing Arts Academy, Chennai, P R Rajesh aka Lakshya took 32 years to muster the courage to reject the sex she was born with and accept her gender.

The secret had till then been hers and hers alone. The feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

“I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what the label was. I didn’t know what the outcome would be,” she says. It was nine months ago that Rajesh from Aluva, now settled in Chennai, underwent the sex-change operation.

“I didn’t want to cheat anyone. I wanted to show the world who I was and now I am happy to live as me, a transgender,” says Lakshya who was in the city for a dance performance as part of the Sivarathri festival. And this was her first performance in her home town after her gender change.

“I was excited. Nobody recognised me and I revealed my identity only after my performance. Kerala society is still conservative unlike the rest of the country,” says Lakshya who has performed all over the world. But after the performance, she is pleased with the response from the audience. “I found a tremendous change in the attitude of people here,” she says.

Born into a middle-class family with four older brothers, Lakshya says she took to dancing at a young age. The movie Sankarabharanam had a great impact on Rajesh and ignited his passion for dance.

“I saw the movie when I was 12 years old and made up my mind to devote my life to dance,” he says. His parents supported him, and Rajesh started learning dance under Kalamandalam Sumathi.

He won many state-level competitions and when he turned 18 he joined Kalashektra, Chennai. “I learnt bharatanatyam for seven years and joined there as a guest artist and later as a teacher,” says Lakshya who is a post-graduate diploma holder in bharatanatyam.

She says all her life she was confused and lonely. “Women wouldn’t accept me and I used to feel hurt.” College life was painful. “I used to feel dejected at my repeated failures in love. I was attracted to boys and always, I was left heartbroken.

I even attempted suicide. When I look back I feel I was a real fool then,” she laughs.

It was her trips abroad that made her come to terms with her real identity. “There was lot of pressure from the family to get married. Initially I told them that I wanted to dedicate my life to dance,” she says with a smile.

Luckily for Lakshya her parents and her brothers accepted her. “She is talented and has a loving heart. I feel she has every right to choose her lifestyle,” says her mother Kamalam.

Post the sex-change operation, the transformation from Rajesh to Lakshya is complete, she says.

“Though there are challenges still, I’m no longer confused about who I am,” she says. “Since the operation I haven’t had any bad experience. I stay positive and believe that if you behave with dignity people will respect you.”

Lakshya considers dance as a medium to express her feminity and a divine gift from god. She is equally good at bharatanatyam, kuchipudi, mohiniyattom and folk dances, and has performed lead roles in Kalashetra dance dramas. Lakshya is also known for her skill in choreography.

She says she wants to dedicate more time to dance performances rather than stick to teaching dance at her academy. “I am young and now I have the energy to perform,” says Lakshya who is the recipient of T S Parthasarathy Award for Excellence in Dancing.

She is also a graded artist in Doordarshan. “I have seen many transgenders who feel sorry for themselves. But I feel lucky because today I believe in myself,” says Lakshya exuding confidence. “Today, I am secure in my identity.”

19 May 2008

In search of dignity

The portrayal of transgenders on the Tamil screen has been insensitive, but this is set to change, says Lakshmy Venkiteswaran.

Megaserials such as Kolangal and Arase on Sun TV have characters that depict transgenders in powerful roles

The society in which we live treats us with nothing but contempt and ridicule," says Rose, a transgender in Chennai who is famous for her talk-show, Ippadikku Rose on Vijay TV. See IBN-CNN video report on Rose below.

This is evident from the insensitive portrayal of transgenders in Tamil films, which more often than not associate aravanis with sexual innuendos and double entendres. Films such as Jayam (2003), Thullatha Manamum Thullum (1999), Eeraman Rojave (1983) and Thiruda Thirudi (2003) have used aravanis for comic relief - making fun of their mannerisms and dress.

This is a far cry from Hilary Swank's Oscar winning performance as the protagonist in Boys Don't Cry, which is based on the life of Brandon Teena, a young transman who was raped and murdered in 1993 by his male friends after they found out about his sexuality.

"Indian comedians lack the creativity needed to come up with fresh comedy. As human beings, we lack empathy and that reflects in the comedy tracks featuring transgenders," says Rose.

However, this is set to change. Her talk show has not only received rave reviews but also changed the stereotypical image of a transgender.

"The public is, for the first time, seeing a transgender being articulate, sociable, intelligent and beautiful. My show has paved the way for transgenders to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve."

Rose, who plans to make a film that portrays transgenders in a different light, says that lack of acceptance by the society is not limited to India. "People should realise that we are the way we are not to make anyone laugh," she says.

Megaserials such as Kolangal and Arase on Sun TV have characters that depict transgenders in powerful roles. In Arase, Bubloo plays the transgender Ganga who is pursued by police.

In one episode, she is arrested and thrown into cell full of males where she is harassed.

7 "I love her dialogue in this episode. It's a reflection of the problems that we face everyday.

Access to public toilets, for instance, is a serious problem. The government needs to formulate special plans to help us cope with society," says June, a transgender in Chennai.

In the Tamil film Appu (2000), the villain is a transgender, Maharani, a power-hungry pimp who eliminates anyone she perceives as a threat.

"Ganga and Maharani are negative characters but you cannot generalise this," adds June.

"There are good and bad people everywhere and transgenders are no different from the rest!" Navarasa, directed by Santosh Sivan, is one of the few films that show the life of aravanis.

Told through the eyes of young Swetha, who is shocked been discovering that her beloved uncle is a woman in a man's body, the film captures the annual Koothandavar festival in Koovagam. Commercially, Navarasa was a nonstarter but the film won much critical acclaim and also the National Award (2005) for the Best Regional Movie.

"If Navarasa had commercial elements such as a dream sequence with the lead pair gyrating to peppy beats, it may have garnered different response. Very few, even among the literate, appreciate meaningful cinema such as Navarasa. The times are changing and awareness has increased about the transgender community, but more needs to be done in terms of policies and laws," says Ameer, the director of the film Paruthiveeran.

Debutant director Kadhir, of the soon-to-be released Tamil film Thenavattu, says his movie will set the benchmark for portrayal of aravanis in Tamil cinema. "We even feed a stray dog but we wouldn't want to help these people. They resort to begging and prostitution because of lack of employment. My film throws a differ ent light on this community. We need to learn to empathise and also change our attitude towards aravanis," he says.

Legislative concerns Homosexual relations are still a crime in India under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which dates back to 1860 The vague nature of the legislation has resulted in it being used against a wide range sexual behaviour such as oral sex (heterosexual and homosexual), sodomy, and bestiality The punishment ranges from 10 years to life imprisonment No major Indian political party has raised endorsed gay rights in their party mani festo or platform. However, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Brinda Karat, did in 2003 write an open letter to the then minister for law and justice, Arun Jaitley, demanding a repeal of Section 377.

Published on the New Indian Express (Chennai edition of the 18 may 2008) by lakshmy@epmltd.com


23 April 2008

A pageant for the third sex.

Monday , April 21 , 2008

From Telegraph India:

The Calcutta Chapter of the Miss India (Kinnar) Beauty contest was organised by Manas Bangla, a statewide network of organisations working with marginalised males, and Kolkata Rista, in collaboration with Bhojiwood Films, New Delhi.

“The aim is to provide people not conforming to traditional gender labels with a platform to express themselves freely,” said Anis Ray Chaudhuri, the treasurer and director of programmes, Manas Bangla.

The contest bore the stamp of the participants’ fight against marginalisation they face at home and outside because of their gender non-conformity and/or non-conventional sexual preferences. One of the contestants, Suman, summed up the spirit of the competition, saying: “We want to prove that we are not less than anyone in any way.” “We want people to accept us the way we are,” asserted Debnath.

The contest had two rounds. In the first round, the participants were asked to introduce themselves, after which the judges questioned them. The second round saw the contestants put up performances of their choice.

The winners will participate in the national contest, to be held in Delhi later this month. The participants and organisers feel the event will boost the battle for empowerment that the transgender people have been waging for long, often unnoticed.

“Most transgender people are constantly harassed — sexually, physically and emotionally — and they get dehumanised. This platform is a step towards bringing them into the mainstream and empowering them,” said Anis.

20 February 2008

Sex change athletes

Mon, November 19 2007

By Mata Press Service

Santhi Soundarajan (photo) was born in poverty in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Today she is one of India’s top athletes holding records in the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase, 800m, 1,500m and 3000m. Last December she ran for a silver medal in the 800 meter race at the 2006 Asian Games held in Doha, Qatar clocking 2 minutes, 3.16 seconds

But the Asian Games organizers have stripped her off her medal claiming she is more man than woman after Santhi failed a gender verification test. Now Canadian Olympic hopeful Kristen Worley a transsexual cyclist, has decided to fight for Santhi, who has been left to fend for herself by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). Worley has taken up Santhi’s case, a victim of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, with International Olympic Council president Jacques Rogge.

Kristen-Worley_cmyk.jpgNormally, women have two X chromosomes (XX) and men have an X or Y chromosome (XY) in their cells. The presence of XX chromosomes confirms the person’s female gender.

However, some people born with a Y chromosome develop all the physical characteristics of a woman except internal female sex organs, a result of a genetic defect that does not produce testosterone.

A person with this condition - called androgen insensitivity syndrome or AIS - might be XY but she is not a man because her body never responds to the testosterone she’s producing.

Since testosterone helps in building muscle and strength, an AIS case would not give an XY female athlete any kind of competitive advantage.

Seven of the eight women who tested positive for Y chromosomes during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics had AIS. They were allowed to compete. Given the confusion and uncertainty over determining a person’s sex, the International Olympic Committee stopped gender testing in 1999. But the Olympic Council of Asia continues the practice.

Worley, a part of the Canadian Olympics team, herself underwent a sex change operation from male to female and believes that it was wrong on the part of the Olympic Council of Asia to take the medal back.

Worley has urged the Council to return the medal to the Indian runner. Worley said, ”the Santhi case should never have been handled in such a gross manner, amounting to public humiliation for the Indian runner because of their ignorance.”

While the Indian speed runner thanked the Canadian for taking up her cause and extending support to her and said, ”I was dejected when the Asian Games committee took back my medal.

I was worried whether I’d get my medal back. But now an international cyclist is supporting me, I feel very happy. I want to thank her.”

But Worley, according to a report in Gaywired, a netzine supporting the cause of gays, is fighting for the cause of Santhi and other victims of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), which results in the external physical characteristics typically associated with women despite having XY chromosomes, and wants the Indian athlete to get her Asian Games silver medal back.

Worley hopes to participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has been accepted, despite a sex change from male to female, as a member of the Canadian women’s cycling team.

Santhi, on the other hand, is banished from athletics after failing a highly controversial gender test during the 2006 Doha Asian Games and was recently in the news for her alleged suicide attempt at her native Kattakurichi village in Podukotti last month.

Worley said not only should Soundararajan get her medal back, she should have her dignity returned. “This is not her problem, this is an IOC problem,” she said.

According to Gaywired.com, Worley won’t know if she will make it to the 2008 Olympics until the World Track & Field Championships in England next March.

In the meantime, when she’s not training or changing the world, Worley is a design engineer for a water ski boat manufacturer. Sharing her love for the water sport, this summer Worley hosted a ski day for transitioning teens.

Helen Carroll, sports project director at the San Francisco–based National Center for Lesbian Rights, says transgender athletes have yet to show up in the games, but notes that Worley, a male-to-female post-op transsexual, is hoping to make her nation’s team for the Beijing games.

“We’re thinking she’s going to be the first openly out trans person that’s competing in the Olympics,” Carroll says.

For athletes who changed sexes after puberty, there are stricter requirements: All surgical anatomical changes have to be completed; legal documentation, such as a driver’s license, has to be provided that reflects the new gender; and hormonal therapies have to have been administered for enough time to minimize gender-related advantages.

The IOC also recommends that the athlete wait at least two years after a gonadectomy—the removal of the testicles in men and the ovaries in women—before competing