Vidya scripts her path

Living Smile Vidya. Photo: Deepa Kurup

Living Smile Vidya. Photo: Deepa Kurup  


Living Smile Vidya chose her name because she wanted it to sound ‘happy'. Having lived in a male body that felt “alien” through her childhood and teens, after undergoing a procedure that transformed her from male to female, Vidya escaped from the hijra group and her life of beggary to return to Trichy and find a job in a rural bank. Except now she was a woman. With a Masters in linguistics, finding a job was not difficult, yet she left her job to pursue a career in theatre and cinema. The 28-year-old worked as an assistant director in Kollywood, acted in Tamil theatre, and has authored a book, I am Vidya, that has been translated into seven Indian languages.

In a freewheeling chat with The Hindu, amid rehearsals for a Tamil experimental play titled Soorpanangu, Vidya spoke about her passions, the hijra tradition and her reservations with the NGO approach to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) activism.

While pride marches and the active role played by non-governmental organisations have managed to generate a debate, and even bring about an incremental difference in social attitudes, Vidya feels that the movement priorities are “superficial”. “The approach is project-oriented. It deals with pertinent issues like HIV awareness, securing identity cards, and so on, but this approach keeps transgenders at the fringes. It does not talk about jobs, (outside of begging and sex work) or skill-training so that we can be respected members of society.”

Job reservations

Vidya is sure that the only way things will change is if government jobs are reserved for transgenders. “Once people know that being a transgender, you can workand live with dignity, things will change rapidly for our community,” she says, adding, this is true of any oppressed section, be it women, Dalits or tribal people. When asked if she feels her parents would have been more accepting of her now that there is more awareness, she pauses. “I am not sure. But if they knew that their child can earn a living and aspire to be a respected member of society, their attitude would change.”

When asked what she wanted the future for people like her to be, she comes back with something that is deeply articulate and incisive. She refers to a similar question asked by a reporter to B.R. Ambedkar in the 50s. When asked what he wanted for the Dalits, says Vidya, “he told the reporter that he did not wish to fly on the streets that everyone walks on. He said we merely want to walk the same streets”.

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Printable version | Dec 17, 2018 9:44:36 AM |

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