From Darkness to Light
The Journey of Dr. Manobi Bandyopadhyay
Our bodies are intrinsically linked to our identities from our birth. The Obstetricians' ringing cry of “It’s a girl!” or “It's a boy!” immediately subjects the newborn to a list of cultural and societal gender stereotypes that invariably shapes the child’s likes and dislike their behaviors, what they become in future.
For our first edition, we are privileged to have with us, as our cover story, the tale of the enigmatic Dr. Manobi Bandopadhyay. The struggles she has faced on all fronts physically, mentally, and emotionally yet refusing to bend to the odds life has put before her and remaining optimistic in her outlook is both commendable and inspiring.
FROM LONELINESS TO SOLIDARITY
The year is 2011, and a little girl is alone in an empty room. There’s no one at home, and the little girl just came out of the bath. There’s a mirror in front of her, but when she looks at it, she doesn’t see herself; she sees a boy. The little girl wonders why she can’t recognize the person in the mirror. She is confused, but she moves on. Reaching into the closet, she grabs a skirt. ‘This is so pretty’, she thinks, and she puts it on. She twirls around and wonders if she looks as pretty as she feels, so she peeks into the mirror. But all she sees is an awkward-looking boy in a skirt. A sudden feeling of shame rushed in like a tsunami. It came out of nowhere, and the girl felt the darkness swallowing her; she didn’t even fight it. After all, what did she have worth fighting for? She was alone.
‘I’m not supposed to feel like this. There is something wrong with me. I’m a boy.’
I AM NOT ALONE
In conversation with Dr. Bittu K, PhD
Dr Bittu is a prominent anti-caste queer activist. He is currently a professor at Ashoka University. He has been vocal around issues of CAA-NRC, minority rights of workers, and communal violence.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”, Mark Twain’s poignant words resonate with the central truth of our existence, our journey of self-discovery. As individuals, we set out on a journey to find out “who are we?”, a question almost always persistent in our lives.
As toddlers, children, teenagers, and adults we are time and again asked to explain who we are and what we want from life. For some of us, the question is far simpler to answer where we have been able to gauge our identity with considerable ease. We know what we want out of our lives, we have ambitions and goals, we understand ourselves and if fortunate enough are surrounded by individuals who would support us in our endeavors.
However, the journey is not a path of roses for all who grapple with the constraints they are surrounded within almost every breathing second of their life whether it is with their socio-economic constraints or a dysfunctional family, for that matter their own identity.
Picture Credit: NEW YORK TIMES
Let’s Check Your Facts!
After watching the video, you must have gained experience in the variant perceptions of the word “Transgender”. Many people have used inclusive terms but still, confusion exists about the various terms and the main “Transgender” term. Therefore, here in our first issue, we have given a breakdown of the different terms through this write-up. So, let’s begin!
The word “Transgender” is an umbrella term for “people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is culturally typically associated with the gender/sex they were assigned at birth.” A “Trans Woman” is a woman who was assigned male at birth and a “Trans Man” is a man who was assigned female at birth. However, they may not identify themselves as trans or be identified by others.
" Therefore, the space between Trans and Man/Woman is grammatically and definitionally correct."
Pictures by: New York Time
Picture Credit: NEW YORK TIMES
THE QUEST FOR TRANSFORMATIVE TRANSGENDER JUSTICE
Picture Credit: The Hindu
The newspapers on 7 September 2018 were filled with advertisements from major corporate brands and houses celebrating the Supreme Court verdict reading Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, effectively decriminalizing same-sex activity (and homosexuality broadly as understood by the general public). However, this exuberant reaction was not seen when the Supreme Court in its landmark NALSA verdict spoke emphatically in favor of trans rights, granting trans persons the right to self-determination of gender identity, reservations in higher education and employment, and directions to the state to provide healthcare facilities.
It was confined to a corner in the newspaper. This comparison is drawn not to diminish the struggles of queer and indeed many trans folx against Section 377 or pit one community against the other. Rather, it seeks to highlight how trans folx are systematically marginalized in all spheres of society, polity, and economy. This can be seen to such an extent that their victory does not merit celebration in the public sphere.
In this article, I seek to understand what would transgender justice mean in our contemporary times in the backdrop of long struggles by gender and sexual minority communities. I draw on Iris Marion Young and Nancy Fraser to frame a notion of transformative justice that centres trans persons and seeks to provide conditions for the full development of their capabilities and enjoyment of their freedoms.
Picture Credit: NEW YORK TIMES
“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”
- Frida Kahlo
What motivated us to launch UNSPOKEN?
Prateek Raj Srivastava
Executive Director C.R.R.S.S
Senior Consulting Advisor - Unspoken
C.R.R.S.S is a think tank but we treasure creativity and thinking out of the box. The sense of activism and leadership in me echoes around all teams in the organisation makes us different from what is traditionally known as activities a think tank does and pushes us to do something more. Along with this, we are brought together by the inclusivity and diversity in the topics or the kind of work that we do. I think there is a particular knowledge gap that gets generated with regards to scholarly work since few people read it and fewer have access to it. We have been doing a lot of scholarly work but with respect to issues regarding the trans community, it needs more content to be focused by the public. With the magazine, our goal is to reach every single person both from within the community and outside the community. I think with the magazine we will not only be able to talk about trans persons in a positive light but also break the stereotypes and the discriminatory dominant narrative in the public sphere. The magazine will be providing a platform to the trans community for sharing their stories of success, stories of failure, and events of everyday life. The magazine will give the freedom that traditional research does not provide us. The magazine was not possible without the constant encouragement from the senior advisors. The leadership and the worldview they possess have constantly encouraged us to push ourselves to achieve objectives which can change the way we look at the world. Srijani Roy, who is the project head of this magazine has worked hard and provided her leadership which eventually made it possible to complete the magazine in time.
At a time where the world is torn by a pandemic and economic crisis, I think my vision for a more inclusive and equal world will resonate with many who strive for collective liberation.
My first tryst with knowing about the LGBTQIA+ community, in general, started with a school project which examined what homophobia is. My teacher at school, Madam Moumita Gupta always encouraged me to keep learning and re-learning new things. I slowly began to read and learn various things. Ever since the beginning of my first year at Jadavpur University, I wanted to do something for the Trans persons. I just did not know what I wanted to do. When I began my journey with C.R.R.S.S, Director and Senior Advisor Prateek Srivastava and the entire team of Advisors at C.R.R.S.S, it encouraged me to take my ideas forward. With their support and constant encouragement and my parent’s blessings, I started working towards launching a magazine for trans persons under C.R.R.S.S.
The name of the magazine is Unspoken because despite trans persons being present in our society, their voices are always silenced. We refuse to give them an opportunity to speak. The magazine gives all those unspoken voices a platform to share their stories with the world. It aims to inspire each and every one of us to never give up hope. The stories that we will be bringing out through this magazine inspires us to not only unlearn our perception towards the trans community but also makes us more inclusive.
This magazine was a dream that I had but it would have remained a dream if my entire team of enthusiastic interns comprising Manish Dutta, Debarati Ganguly, Tansitha Bhagwati, Sai Tanshika, Piuli Basu and Ayesha Shanghavi had not worked so hard towards making it a reality.
Advisor Gender Equality Program and Head of Outreach at C.R.R.S.S
Project Head - Unspoken
MEET THE TEAM
Prateek Raj Srivastava
Prateek Srivastava is the Executive Director of C.R.R.S.S. and the Senior Advisor for the Reducing Inequality Program. Currently completing Msc in International Politics at KU Leuven and is on his way to attain an Advanced MSc in Development (CADES). He completed his undergraduate studies from University of Cincinnati. His research interests include politics, religion, migration, and feminism in South Asia.
Srijani Roy is currently pursuing her Masters in Sociology from Jadavpur University. She has graduated from the same university with a degree in sociology in 2019. She is an Advisor under the Gender Equality program and also the Head of Outreach at C.R.R.S.S. She is also the head of the magazine “UNSPOKEN”.
She is currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from the Department of International Relations at Jadavpur University.
Debarati Ganguly is an undergraduate student of Economics at Basanti Devi College, University of Calcutta. She is enthusiastic about gender, international relations, political economy, diplomacy and globalisation.
Manish is an undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. He is particularly interested in international migration, democracy, globalization, citizenship, gender politics, peace and conflict studies and critical security studies.
Piuli is currently pursuing their Masters at the School of Gender Studies, TISS Hyderabad. They are an enthusiastic researcher keen on working with Queer Theory and Cultural Studies and have completed a BA in Sociology, from Jadavpur University.
Sai Tanishka is an Undergraduate student of mathematics at Miranda House, Delhi. She is a voracious reader with a special interest in economics, marketing and creative work.
PublicRelations and Marketing Associate
She has an undergraduate degree from Flame University, Pune in Digital Marketing. She is currently pursuing a Diploma in Digital Marketing with specialisation in Marketing PR and Social media from MICA, Ahmedabad. She aspires to create a positive change in society through her work.
Sayantan Mondal is currently pursuing his masters in Media and International Conflict at Clinton Institute for American Studies, University College Dublin. His interest lies in war, media and documentary photography. He possesses the skills and experience of practising ethical journalism in fast-paced media outlets.