Equality might sound like a grave issue which needs a tremendous amount of effort to be achieved; but more often than not, the ability to show understanding, empathy, respect and love is all one needs.
The story of Reena Rai of Haryana is one such.
On 27th of August, 2017, the city of Gurugram witnessed 16 transgender people from different states of the country participating in the Trans Queen India 2017, a beauty pageant for the transgender community.
A one-of-its kind event in northern India, this is a brain-child of Ms Rai. The seed of the concept was sown in her mind when she befriended a trans-woman, Vippy Mua whom she first met at a beauty salon when Vippy was still a man. Their friendship brewed over mutual compassion since both were going through difficult times as individuals.
Talking with Vippy and her other friends gave Reena primarily a shock upon realising how bad the situation is; and then a clearer perspective about the extent of discriminations that are done against the Trans community – such that straight and cisgender people cannot even begin to imagine. It also gave her a strong sense of will to do something for these people and make a difference.
With no company willing to provide sponsorship money and get their names associated with something “controversial” even though they applauded the initiative, Reena finally gave up on them and invested her own savings to conduct the beauty pageant, even risking her daughter’s education.
More than 1500 people participated in the initial procedures, whom the top 16 battled to get to the final on Sunday, 27th.
The sole purpose of this event was to bring forward the real picture of the transgender community that gets shrouded behind all the taboos, stigma and resentment. These are people who are completely capable of being successful in their respective fields and go to places they themselves are unaware of, if only we all help them break the pointless shackles that are put on them by the society. Reena wants to give them that exposure, opportunity and the confidence to break them.
Inspite of all the hurdles, with the support from her family, Ms Rai’s dreams have come true.
Nitasha Biswas, a trans-woman from Kolkata, was named the first Miss Trans Queen India. Miss Transsexual Australia 2017, Laeticia Phylliscia Raveena had crowned her as the winner. Loiloi from Manipur was the first runner-up and Ragasya from Chennai was crowned the second runner-up.
The winner will get to represent her country and the community in Thailand in the Miss International Queen pageant and the first runner-up will compete in the Miss Transsexual Australia pageant. There are arrangements being made to find a pageant at the international stage where the second-runner up can participate too.
Even though the first transgender beauty pageant to be held on an all-India basis, it is not the first ever to be held in India. Though nowhere near to how many there should be, there have been a couple of others which definitely call for mention.
An initiative taken up by the Dhwayah Arts and Cultural Society, a transgender organisation, Kerala saw the Queen of Dhwayah 2017, a transgender beauty pageant within the state. Kerala has always led the way where trans-rights are concerned. From hosting athletic sports meet to hiring them for government jobs, the state has always put its effort towards inclusion of the community.
On June 15, 2017, Syama Sanju was crowned as the Queen of Dhwayah, while Dancer Jaz D’souza and stage actress Harini Chandana became the first and second runner-ups respectively.
In 2010, another such event was organised by V-care in Maharashtra. Attended by actresses Celina Jaitley and Zeenat Aman, the pageant saw Ms. Manipur Bobby win the crown of V-Care Indian Super queen.
Beauty pageant may sound like yet another glamorous and glitzy competition where people dress up and fight for the trophy. But these events are, by the very cause behind them, way more than that. More than a competition, these are actually a stage for the transgender community to be a part of the crowd, to be something commonplace, to be mundane yet beautiful; but definitely nothing unnatural or extra-ordinary.