Dancing to the Future

Conference

At a conference in Goa, transgenders share their stories and discuss empowerment plans

Navya Singh stood out amidst the crowd of transgenders dancing on a cruise ship in Goa. In a black tee and tight jeans, Singh swayed with the ease of a professional dancer. "That's because I am a bar dancer in Mumbai," said the 24-year-old, who belongs to Chandigarh. But dancing on the ship in Goa, with other transgenders, was a different experience for her. "I feel born again here," she said, with a wide grin. A far cry from how she feels about her job in Mumbai. "I became a bar dancer because I had no option," said Singh, a commerce ­graduate who earlier worked as a counsellor with an NGO in Mumbai, before she quit as she had to go to Chandigarh. "When I returned to Mumbai, nobody was willing to employ me, so I became a bar dancer," she said. And then, her boyfriend left her ­"because his family didn't accept me the way I am".

Navya's story reflects the lives of some 55 transgenders who congregated in Panaji, Goa for the All India Mela of Transgenders, organised by the NGO Anam Prem. The one-day conference, held at the Goa State Museum, had lectures by activists on the discrimination faced by transgenders. Abhina Aher, a transgender activist from Delhi, while addressing the audience, said, "Forget being a little human towards us, in most of the places, especially in the rural areas, we are hunted out of villages by our own parents, beaten and sexually abused so that we are forced to live like men or face rejection from the community. Why do you think that we live in groups and intimidate people with loud claps and harsh voices?" she said. Laxmi Prajapati, a 24-year-old from Indore, nodded to Aher's words. Wearing a bright red sari, and chunky jewellery, she told us, "I work as an accountant and dress up like a man in office. I work at two places in shifts, and make Rs 13,000 every month. It is enough to help sustain whatever I do."

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