The transgenders who showcased their talent on Saturday at a cultural event organised by two non-governmental organisations, have come a long way.
All of them made a difficult choice and had to leave their home. They fended for themselves, received support from like-minded persons, and even now, many of them say, their families refuse to accept them.
“When we were in our teens and felt the urge to change over, our families didn’t understand. It is organisations such as Thozhi and Tai that have supported us,” said Angel Glady, trustee of Thozhi, a community-based organisation in the city.
Angel has a master’s degree in journalism from University of Madras.
“It has helped that the State government has set up a welfare board for us. Those over the age of 40 have to only apply for assistance and they are paid Rs. 1,000 per month” she said.
While Angel’s family is now resigned to her decision, S. Negha’s family has still not accepted her decision to live as a woman. During the second year of an engineering course, the desire to become a woman drove Negha to seek out transgender organisations.
“I discontinued my education because my family refused to accept my decision,” she said. Negha has since become a counsellor and helps others like her.
On Saturday, at the event, jointly organised by Tai and Thozhi, Negha and Angel performed the Lavni dance. The two women said they invited a Lavni exponent from Maharashtra and learnt the art form.
Every programme listed for the evening was a speciality. Ponni performed bharatnatyam while a group of 14 women from Theni and Salem performed the thappattam. These professional performers are invited to perform at functions.
“We have performances 10 days a month,” said Kavya, one of the members of the group. The performers get paid Rs. 500 to Rs. 800 per day for a performance, she said.
C. Shwetha, who adorns herself with beads, is the cynosure of the group. She has learnt to create jewellery.
“I exhibit my wares wherever I get a stall,” she said. Her confidence and self-reliance as an older member of the group makes her special. “The idea behind the event is to show that we can empower ourselves,” explained Angel.
Books written by transgenders were also on sale at the event.