For many years, Nithu RS fulfilled the responsibilities of a son and brother in keeping with the gender assigned at birth. While Nithu identified as a transwoman as early as middle-school did not come out to the family then. “When I came to Bengaluru in 2007, I saw many people, especially transpersons, begging. I was convinced that if I did my duty towards my family, completed my education and showed my talent, they would accept me. Then gender wouldn’t matter,” recalled Nithu, the crown winner of the 3rd Edition of Miss Trans Queen India 2019, which concluded in the national capital Friday.
After pursued BBA and animation diploma, Nithu eventually became a tattoo artist. “Since I loved sketching and art, I became a tattoo artist and soon started getting recognised. I did well financially and opened a beauty parlour for my sister. In 2012, my family shifted to Bengaluru. But I still took time to come out to them. Meanwhile, I opened a restaurant for my mother. As a son, I completed my responsibilities. That is when I decided to come out for the sake of my life and decided to step into the next phase. I came out to my sister in 2016 who was shocked and in tears. I told her about successful LGBTQ+ people, showed her videos and how many people are part of the community. She eventually told my mother who was depressed for a long time. But I told her that my strength lies in her and now, my entire family stands by me,” Nithu told indianexpress.com in an exclusive interaction at the beauty pageant grand finale in Janakpuri Dilli Haat.
Among the 11 participants, Nithu also won the Best Evening Gown title. She will soon be representing the country internationally at the Miss International Queen pageant in Thailand, which is considered one of the largest and prestigious pageants for transpersons. She also received a beauty treatment voucher worth Rs 60,000 from a firm and a free surgery offer from a clinic in Gujarat. by Dr Navtar Patel.
“It is a dream come true (for me). I now want to represent my country at the international level and win the crown for India. My life story must inspire people. And I need to help my community break barriers,” an elated Nithu said.
Standing beside her were the other winners, first runner-up Shaily Rai from Chhattisgarh, and second runner-up Bonita Singh Rajpurohit from Jodhpur. Founder of Miss Trans Queen India 2019, Reena Rai shared why the pageant is much more than mere beauty. “When I started this, I was all alone. My victory lies in the fact that all my queens are standing with me. These queens are not just about beauty but agents of change. They are doing work on the ground level. They are celebrating the success of their own trans sister. They now understand that a transwoman winner is not just an individual but representative of the community. The others take heart from that,” Reena told indianexpress.com.
“For a long time, I didn’t know much about LGBTQ+. I feel a majority of our population only knows about them as on the street, in sex work or ‘badhaai-toli’. We only know about kinnar. But it’s a big rainbow that exists,” added Reena, who started the pageant with her transwoman friend Vippy.
Recounting her journey, the founder said, “It started with a friendship with a transwoman. We both felt broken. I had lost my best-friend and she was searching for an identity. We became each other’s strength. She was ridiculed because she wore lipstick, heels. So, I felt the people who were ridiculing her should respect her instead. The journey has definitely not been easy. My own community of women questioned it a lot of times. Even the community I was fighting for, the LGBTQ+, questioned me. But I know that my purpose lies in empowerment.”
The participants wore glamorous and elegant collections designed by International Institute of Fashion Academy, Jankapuri and were ranked on the basis of behaviour, body language, facing camera, personal interview, talent, introduction, etiquette, fitness and knowledge. The contestants were from all over India including Mumbai, Chhattisgarh, New Delhi, Bengaluru Kolkata and Chennai.
Though she missed out on the crown, for Mumbai-based Anamika who participated in such a pageant for the first time, it was the experience of a lifetime. “My life had been difficult. Before my surgery, nobody accepted me. After I came to participate, people have started recognising me. I am passionate about fashion. I never walked on heels, so this is an experience in itself. As a first-time participant, I was nervous but when I look at the other contestants, I feel I am not alone,” she said.
For Miss Trans Queen India 2018, Raipur-based Veena Sendre, who crowned her successor Nithu, it was a journey that taught her a lot, since she comes from a small-town. “Back in 2010, I only used to dream about and watch videos of international pageants. But I made it to the ramp and am now modelling, acting…I am very happy. My journey of the last one year has been fantastic. Coming from a tribal community, I remember how I went back as a winner and had a huge reception, where the entire village showed up. It was the best moment of my life. Not just my family, but my village and my state was supporting me. Such pageants can do wonders for the community,” Sendre, who was in the Top 8 in Miss International Queen 2019, told indianexpress.com.
Concurred Reena, “There is nothing achieved by ridiculing people. It is only when people take a step ahead and accept them and give opportunities that change happens. If there is no platform then they don’t get a way out. Creating more job opportunities for them is a must.”
Naaz Joshi, who identifies as a transsexual woman and created history with a third successive victory in the beauty pageant Miss World Diversity held in Mauritius in 2019, summed up, “I want people to stop looking at transgenders as aliens. They need to understand that transpeople are also fellow humans. There should not be any norms in society that a transperson has to dress like a woman to be accepted in society. A lot of transgirls get their sex reassignment surgery done for social acceptance. I want trans to be accepted the way they are, the way they look and not how they look after their surgery. It is dangerous and expensive. Nearly 99.9 per cent of the population of transpeople are below poverty line due to the prevalent discrimination,” said Joshi, who won the pageant last year in the ‘classic’ category.