Culture knows no gender

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, 32-year-old transgender activist is working at an alliance with the country's well known artistes to produce a show that has been ‘unimaginable' until now.

Not one to shy away from breaking traditions to make them more humane or forging new ties to make inclusive development a reality, Laxmi is in talks with senior Indian artists to organise the extravaganza.

A vocal advocate for equal rights for the transgender community, Laxmi says, “Of course it is a bold step forward to ascertain our identity. The idea of this cultural programme is to bring to the forefront the co-existence of the hizra community in our society, to give a face to this section of people who are often more talked about than talked for,'' said Laxmi.

“Though the details of the scale, scope and reach of the programme are yet to be worked out, we hope that such an assertion of our right to live a life of dignity will help our larger cause,'' added Laxmi who is no stranger to challenges. She was one of the first to go public with her ‘story' and has devoted herself to the welfare of the transgender community for over a decade now.

She was a member of the United Nations Civil Society Task Force on HIV/AIDS in 2008 and is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Transgendered Network; and chairperson of Astitiva a non-government organisation involved in working for welfare of transgender community.

Laxmi who most recently participated in the popular reality show Big Boss “to highlight and sensitise the general public about the fact that transgender are normal human beings'', has also participated in other reality shows including ‘Sach Ka Saamna' and ‘Raaz Pichle Janam Ka.'

“Reaching out to the general public through television is important. Putting a face to the transgender community I think allows people to react with more humanity. After seeing me on Big Boss I think a lot of people now understand that behind all the talk and makeup we are nothing more than just regular people,'' says Laxmi.

Stating that the transgender community is a group of very visible people who are deliberately and conveniently kept invisible by society, Laxmi says: ``This is the most hurtful fact of our life that we live with every second. Imagine being ridiculed, abused, and rejected by society over and over. Imagine the fear that accompanies us through every thought, action and desire and then imagine the desperation of this all.''

“Our gender ensures that we are usually kept away from schools, colleges, social gatherings, religious functions, the election process or even having a say in Government policies made for our welfare. Every day my basic constitutional rights are taken away and no one gets punished for it. The society has learned to use and throw us. Though several policies and people claim that they accept us, it does not truly reflect in spirit,'' points out Laxmi.

“A good example of this discrimination is our medical health system. We have almost no access to quality drugs. Allocation of funds to help us is practically non existent and worse there is no political will to bring about any positive change. Raising these issues with the Government is next on our agenda. We not only want a normal life of dignity, we also want to live with the rights that the Constitution of India guarantees to us as citizens, because we are that first, our gender comes later,'' states Laxmi.

“And this cultural extravaganza is a step in that direction to make people realise that music, dance, drama, poetry is also our way of expressing our joys, sorrows, desires, dreams and ambitions. We hope that through this venture we are able build bridges and form some lasting friendships,'' adds Laxmi.

The country may see the first-of-its-kind transgender cultural extravaganza this year.

We are citizens first, our gender comes later. We hope that through this venture we are able to build bridges and form some lasting friendships: Laxmi

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