02 August 2010

Kusum - The Flower Bud

Kusum - The Flower Bud : Director: Shumona Banerjee | Genre: Drama | Produced In: 2010

Synopsis: Can hope be found in the most unusual places amongst the most unlikely characters? A young transvestite prostitute, Kusum, locked up in her room, gears up for a regular night like any other. But just then enters Purab, an out-of-a-job English literature teacher suffering from Tourette's syndrome and obsessive-compulsive behaviour, without a clue of the local language. He spent his meager savings to spend one night with a girl, and finds himself stuck with a boy! On the other hand, Kusum is at a loss with this man who seems to her a "freak" madly going about cleaning her room while throwing things at her in the middle of the night and insisting on blabbering in English! Both can’t understand what the other is saying. But as the night proceeds, insecurities, appearances and prejudices slowly give way, but just a little. Will these two people, alike as desperate misfits but otherwise so different, manage to find a connection? Perhaps like a flower bud bursting through a crack in the wall, an unexpected beginning will see them through....

09 July 2010

Mallika’s makeover

Meet world famous dancer Mallika Girish Panicker, who was a man until her sex change last year

By Manasi Paresh Kumar

Her long fingers gesture delicately, as Mallika Girish Panicker emphasises her point.
With her neatly pleated saree, kohl-lined eyes and pinned up hair, the world renowned Bharatnatayam exponent who is based in Singapore, would give the best looking women a run for their money. So when you are told that 38-year-old Mallika actually began life as Girish Panicker, your jaw naturally drops!
Mallika, who was in the city for a performance, is among the popular artists in both the Chennai and the Bangalore dance circuit. She was tutored in the world famous Kalakshetra School of Fine Arts in Chennai as a young boy of seven. In a society where transvestites and folks of the alternative gender are shunned, Mallika’s success is a lesson to take home. She spent almost 20 years consolidating her position as a male dancer, only to undergo sex change last year. “As male dancers, we are always perceived as effeminate and in my case, it was a little more. I always did have the urge in me, but when I was asked by the Singapore Institute of Fine Arts to take up the job of a male dance teacher, I had to put any plans on hold,” she explains.
Thousands of students have trained under Mallika (then Girish) and 14 of her students even had their arangetram which is a record in itself. But her natural urge took over and in 2009, she decided to quit the institute and begin her own school. “I began Akasha Ganga, where now more than 120 children learn the art, and simultaneously underwent sex change operation in Malaysia.” It was a long process and took more than 15 sittings, but Mallika received immense support from the community and her students’ parents. “Before I underwent the operation, I spoke to the parents of every student and they said that it did not matter what my sex was, it was my art that mattered. Vyjayanthimala Bali was all for the idea when I discussed it and when she did, a lot of others too opened their minds,” she says.
So what propelled her to make the change? “I wanted to be somebody’s wife and no one would accept me as a transvestite in that role. I had to do this” she explains. Have the proposals poured in since. “Oh yes, I have a lot of men who want to marry me, but they need to allow me to continue my dance,” she says.
So how has life changed as a dancer for her? “Well, for one thing, I am very happy that I can plait my hair into a long braid. I always hated that about being a male dancer. A lot of people ask me if it was difficult to convince my family. It was only my sister and she is very happy about it. The decision was not a difficult one, neither were the reactions,” she says. Her word of advice when you see a transgender person is not to be repelled but to accept them. “You will be pleasantly surprised.”
Before i underwent the operation, i spoke to the parents of every student and they said that it did not matter what my sex was, it was my art that mattered — Mallika Girish Panicker
More on Mallika http://maalikagirishpanickker.info/default.aspx

24 June 2010

India: The Transgender World

Check out this great photo documentary blog post India: The Transgender World

28 March 2010

Manipur's first gay marriage ends in 'divorce' (forced)

Sandip Soibam (left) and Nikhil Hidangmayum exchange rings during the first ever public gay marriage at an auditorium at Chingamakha in Imphal West District on Thursday.

Imphal: The first-ever same-sex marriage in Manipur between two men in their 20s ended in a 'divorce' two days into their wedding following stiff opposition from their families.
Sandip, the 25-year-old 'groom', and Nikhil, the 28-year-old 'bride', who exchanged marriage vows on Thursday in the presence of a modest gathering at a community hall here, decided to end their marriage late Saturday.
Their families on Saturday filed a complaint with the local police station at Singjamei, seeking help to end the marriage.
"A police official called Sandip and Nikhil to the police station and counselled them for about two hours. The two men agreed to split and call off their marriage," a family member of Sandip told IANS.
The families were opposed to the marriage after the couple decided to enter into wedlock after a six-year relationship. They maintained it would be a scar on the families as gay marriage is still a taboo in society.
"We were deeply hurt and objected to the marriage. With no options left, we approached the police. They helped us not by force, but by reasoning and convinced the duo to change their mind and split," another family member of Nikhil said requesting not to be named.
The couple were staying together after their wedding at the beauty parlour run by Nikhil.
They exchanged bouquets and rings to wed. Sandip wore a black suit for the ceremony, while Nikhil was dressed in a white gown.
Soon after the wedding on Thursday, Sandip said: "I am blessed to have Nikhil as my wife. We are indeed happy."

02 February 2010

Julie Bindel's dangerous transphobia

by CL Minou writes frequently on feminist and transgendered issues. She blogs at The Second Awakening 

Beatrix Campbell was wrong – refusing to give Bindel a platform is not censorship. It is the right reaction to her hateful views

I don't much care for Julie Bindel, unlike Beatrix Campbell, who defended her on this site yesterday. That does not mean I don't admire her. As a feminist whose radicalism would probably surprise her, I appreciate Ms Bindel's advocacy and the genuine good that has come for her work against violence directed at women. Yet in her long, lonely crusade against transsexuals she contradicts three of her own three feminist principles:

1) Gender is a social construct and malleable – unless you try to change yours.

2) Biology is not destiny – except men are always men and women are always women.

3) Bodily autonomy is something all women struggle for – but not something trans women are competent enough for.

4) Misogyny is evil – unless it is directed at a trans woman, even if, as is often the case, no one knows she is trans.

Indeed, what is astonishing about Bindel's writing on transsexuals, which has been published in the Guardian, is how often it resembles the diatribes of anti-gay bigots: the disregard of our own voices, the disbelief that transness is anything but a degeneracy, and the general air of condescension and paternalism.

Gays and lesbians have long known that such diatribes are not merely "offensive," but dangerous – as is transphobic writing like Bindel's, and for the same reason: they support social attitudes that have often proven deadly for trans people. According to the Transgender Day of Remembrance web site, 130 people were murdered in 2009 simply because they were transgendered – and those were only the deaths that were reported. Like gay and lesbian people, trans people face the very real threat of violence every day simply for being themselves. Very often, even in places where legal protection exists for gays and lesbians, no similar protection exists for trans people.

That Stonewall, an organisation named for riots that were led in part by a trans woman, Sylvia Rivera, should honour a writer with such disdain for the transgendered was a profound insult. Its action deserved protest, but protest is not censorship, as Campbell argued. Neither is the NUS applying its "no-platform" policy to Bindel nor other groups who no longer want her to appear at their functions. This is more a sign of an evolution of the modern feminist movement away from its historic transphobia towards an inclusive model; one that, as Laurie Penny puts it, "...holds that gender identity, rather than being written in our genes, is an emotional, personal and sexual state of being that can be expressed in myriad different ways that encompass and extend beyond the binary categories of 'man' and 'woman'".

Like any woman, a trans woman experiences having her anatomy scrutinised, commodified, and criticised; her appearance criticised for being either too masculine or too feminine; and is told repeatedly how her gender disqualifies her from many positions – all before she transitions. Afterwards, she is subject to both the misogyny that all women face plus the added prejudice faced by trans people, sometimes from the very organisations who exist to help women in need. We are neither dupes nor Jake Sully-like avatars of the patriarchy: we are just ordinary women and men facing the same problems of other women and men.

It is my guess that neither Campbell nor Bindel would have a problem with the NUS refusing someone a platform who had frequently published homophobic writings, even if they had done other good works. Both, I suspect, would happily write about and protest against such a person. Their surprise that the same thing should happen to a person with a long record of public transphobia must thus seem a bit disingenuous – unless you don't think trans people are worthy of human dignity. Which is neither good activism, feminism – or politics.

* www.guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

09 January 2010

Are our feet really getting bigger?

By Jonathan Duffy
BBC News Magazine

One high street shoe retailer has seen a marked increase in sales of larger sizes. But are our feet really getting bigger or are we coming round to the idea of "sensible shoes"?
Clodhopper, Big Foot, Yeti, flippers, clown's feet. You name it, Emma Supple has heard it from the patients who come knocking on the door of her foot care clinic.
Their motivation is to find some relief from the pain of years spent squeezing into shoes that are too small.
The result of this self-imposed form of 21st Century foot binding is a host of podiatric injuries, ranging from corns, callouses and blisters to trapped nerves, toes which have been compressed to resemble claws and a condition called mallet toe.
There's a sort of peasant stigma - you become an object of derision,
Christine Browning (size 11)
Just as the rest of our bodies are growing, upwards, frontwards and sideways so, it seems, are our feet.
Earlier this week, department store Debenhams reported a boom in sales of ladies' size nine shoes - up 23% last year on 2008. It's a similar story for men, according to the retailer, which said last year sales of men's size 12s had soared while "requests for whopping size 14 and above are flooding in".
Yet while some are seeking out big sizes, many - women in particular - are preferring to follow in the more moderately proportioned footsteps of the masses, and bearing the pain in silence.
But if we acknowledge that our bodies are bigger - for better or worse - than those of our parents or grandparents, why does this acceptance stop just south of the ankle bone? And why are our feet getting bigger? There may be more obesity, but does an extra couple of inches on the waist really transfer to the furthest extremities of the body?

Feet accompli
At 5ft 9ins Christine Browning is above average height for a woman. Her long legs and slim build - "on a good day people call me thin" - would draw envious glances from many other women. But her feet wouldn't. She is a size 11.
"There's a sort of peasant stigma. Women perceive narrow feet to be dainty, slim, refined. I used to feel awful. You become an object of derision," she confides. "If you are with a bunch of women or girls talking about shoes and it turns into a discussion about feet you suddenly don't want to be part of that conversation. You'll find a way to get away."
The sense of exclusion manifests itself elsewhere. Women with big feet can find it difficult to take up sports which demand a certain style of shoe - golf and tennis are two examples, she cites.
And while the overweight can work to draw in their waistline, with exercise and cutting calories, feet can't be slimmed.
Ms Browning became so fed up with the limited range of outsize footwear for women she took matters into her own hands - buying a small business which sold big shoes and revamping its image and stocks. She is now the managing director of Special Feetures, which caters for women with long and narrow feet, and After 8 Shoes, which specialises in UK sizes 8½ to 11 for women.
It is one of several suppliers of big footwear. But still women with big feet are in denial.
"I get a lot of teenage girls in our clinic taking size seven or eight and their feet haven't even finished growing at that point," says Ms Supple.

Nine is the limit
And whatever size they end up at, nine is the de facto upper limit she says.
"There's a mental block for women above size nine. They will say they're size nine when they are bigger and just squash their feet in."
In fact, it's not just the big-footed that squeeze their feet into ill-fitting vessels.
Almost four in 10 women buy shoes knowing they do not fit, according to a recent poll by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. And nearly two out of 10 men do the same.
Yet male attitudes are more malleable, says Bruce Davis, an elder statesman of the outsize footwear market in Britain. As manager of Magnus Shoes, Mr Davis has been peddling big footwear since the mid-1960s.
"The female side of the business is vastly more difficult and demanding. I've heard comments many times like 'I'd rather go barefoot than wear those'. Whereas for men, I can sell a brogue to a teenager and to a man in his 60s."
But not all fashion appetites can be sated with the promise of polished tan brogue and options for men have grown in recent years. As with other significant but disparate communities, the internet has provided a focus for the big-footed, with specialist shops which are sourcing from places such as the US.
Supply is simply reflecting demand, says Mr Davis, who believes the trend for bigger feet can be traced back to the likes of shoemakers such as Clarks and Start Rite. By encouraging parents to buy sensible shoes for children, with plenty of room for growth, our feet grew more than they would have in ill-fitting footwear, says Mr Davis.

Pancaking feet
So should we brace ourselves for bigger feet all round - what Debenhams has bluntly termed "Big Foot Britain"? Will the outsized dispossessed become part of the mainstream?
Mr Davis is sceptical - both about High Street chains committing to bigger sizes, but also whether our feet really are growing as much as has been suggested. It's difficult to be sure because the size of Britain's feet has never been properly documented.

  • Average British woman's foot is 24.5cm - roughly a size five
  • Average man's foot is 27cm - about a size nine
  • No directly comparable historic data...
  • ...but in 1951 survey average woman's foot was size 3½
Source: UK National Sizing Survey 2004

Podiatrist Matthew Fitzpatrick says our feet are growing but in terms of attitude, we are growing up.
"Are we seeing our shoes getting bigger or are we just seeing people becoming more sensible in their choice of shoes, particularly women?" he asks. In short - are women starting to reclaim their real shoe size and refusing to be hobbled by the crippling strictures of fashion?
A slew of big-footed confessions from the likes of Kate Winslet (size nine), newsreader Kate Silverton (also size nine) and singer Macy Gray (size 10) can only have helped the march towards "sensible shoes".
Mr Fitzpatrick points out there is also evidence feet are being affected by diet. A recent study found obesity in children was leading to bigger feet, although in a more complex way than might be assumed. Children's feet are pancaking under excess weight.
"When you are young the bones in your body haven't hardened. So if you've got a foot in which the bones are still forming and an excessively heavy child putting the weight on that foot, the arch [of the foot] flattens."
The technical term is "splaying" and Mr Fitzpatrick says his profession is seeing more children with flat feet associated with obesity.
Even then, feet are not necessarily getting longer, but wider. Yet people with wide feet often buy shoes that are a size too big to accommodate the spread.
"We are probably seeing a general growth in the foot but not as exponential and vast as we are being told."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2010/01/08 12:14:36 GMT