Problems such as common knowledge and acceptance of gender fluidity has often eluded the transgender community in Mumbai, much unlike their peers elsewhere in the country. And this has increased the enthusiasm of the trans community in the city of dreams, where they are trying to find their voices through different platforms. At the recently held Trans Empowerment Mela organised by Anam Prem, The Indian Express got itself acquainted with some such individuals, who have taken up entrepreneurial roles despite societal restrictions.
Started by Urumi Jadhav, one such transgender initiative is Dancing Queens, for all the transgenders who love dancing and want to pursue it professionally. With a strength of 20 members, the group, at present, performs at corporate events. “People believe that transgenders are meant to earn only on the roads. But we have talents just like others. It only needs to be honed and appreciated. And that is exactly what we do at Dancing Queens,” says Jadhav, who, before starting this initiative, used to volunteer at research firms.
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Elaborating on how her past experience has helped her to reach out to students across the city for sensitisation workshops, Jadhav adds, “The problem is coming out in the open about such an identity as there is so much stigma attached to it. Moreover, the false notion that if people have such an identity, their futures are doomed. So we must start sentising young people but unfortunately the government does not allow us to reach out to those below 18.”
Understanding the ways of the community is key to their acceptance in the society, they say. Despite varied traditions across the country, entry into their community requires one to adhere to the hierarchical system that prevails.
A trans individual must take on a guru to be accepted by others. This guru, who takes multiple such chelas under her wing, provides them protection and ensures that their health is never compromised. A guru is preceded by a Nayak, who holds similar responsibilities. This power structure comprises the different gharanas that house different transgender families across India.
Interestingly, young transgenders from across the country have been shifting to Mumbai as acceptance and freedom is much more here.
Hailing from the city of Thrissur in Kerala, Shalini is a trans female who now considers Mumbai her own. A volunteer at Aishwarya Foods, that was started 25 years ago to support the trans community, Shalini takes pride in having made a life for herself in the expensive city of dreams.
Other trans individuals who have gained accolades in the recent times are the much famour 6Pack Band, who have come to be known for their bold music. Meanwhile, some others have successfully taken on their jobs as watchdogs for the Thane police.
Shaking off the shackles that used to bind them previously, the transgender community of Mumbai have come a long way, of course with a little help from the city.