First-ever transwomen-run Aavin tea stall struggles to stay afloat

An Aavin parlour run by transgenders at Charing Cross in Udhagamandalam.   | Photo Credit: SATHYAMOORTHY M

A year after the district administration spearheaded an initiative to provide employment for a group of transgender women here, business has slumped due to a combination of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and discrimination against people working at the tea stall.

The Aavin tea stall in Charring Cross was inaugurated in February of 2020. The initiative was designed to provide sustainable livelihoods for a group of transgender women who are part of the Nilgiris district transgenders self-help group.

The group, which had five members at the time, has grown to include more members of the transgender community over the last year. The Aavin booth was the first of its kind with the management being handled entirely by transwomen. However, despite the best efforts of the members working in the tea stall, business has slumped with income barely covering overheads, the members of the self-help group said.

Viniya, who has studied up to Class 10 and whose first job has been at working at the tea stall, said that a combination of factors had led to poor patronage. “We are extremely thankful to the government and the district administration for their efforts to find us livelihoods. However, they can only offer us a platform. It is up to the public to support people from the LGBTQ community and their businesses,” said one of the members.

“Many of the people who came to the tea stall were either college students from nearby Government Arts College or were tourists. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, business was hit hard as the number of tourists has dwindled,” said Viniya.

Ms. Viniya believes that existing prejudice against transgender persons was also playing a part in people not coming to the tea stall. “Many people see me and think I am a cis-woman. It’s only when they speak to me that they realise that I am a transwoman. Though I have not directly had anyone say anything to me or insult me, I can certainly feel that many people feel uncomfortable to visit out shop,” she added.

When contacted, Project Director of the Tamilnadu State Rural Livelihoods Mission (Mahalir Thittam), P. Babu, who was another key official instrumental in supporting the SHG set up the tea stall last year, said that the district administration would speak to the members and try to come up with a solution.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 11:10:11 PM |

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