Where the Roads Cross: Grace Banu’s Struggle Against the Society
“We are also humans”
The time when we are born till the time we die, our fate is always determined by civilised society. With every decision that we try to make for ourselves, we are hurdled back by societal norms. In Indian society, the caste structure plays a dominant role in deciding people’s lives coupled with their gender identities. A person belonging from a marginalised Dalit community and also identifying as a trans person often have to bear the brunt of exclusion and oppression meted out to them because of their unequal position in the society. This often means, missing out on opportunities and basic privileges which should be accessible on the account of being a human. Our second cover story features Grace Banu, a Dalit trans activist.
Born in a Dalit family in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, Grace Banu told us that from the very beginning, the society has been very harsh to her and discriminated against her in the name of caste and later for her quickly emerging gender dysphoria. At school, she was not allowed to sit with other students and instead made to sit under a tree isolated from others. “All Dalit students at the school was not discriminated in this manner. Once my gender identity was out in the open, my Dalit identity was even more focused on”, she recalls. These students whom she considered her friends also started looking down upon her and didn’t interact with her which caused her severe mental distress and she felt more isolated.
CREDIT: NEW YORK TIMES | PINK NEWS
autumn morning by my window
somewhere in the middle of your city
there's a loveless place where
every time i think of a song
close their windows shut
the windows are all doors and they're made of glass
the doors are all mirrors and they keep a photo of me inside their frames
you're on your side. "s, the geyser broke again and it's been days, did you call the plumber yet?"
late in september last year when
autumn had finally started to set in
it was about our hearts and
in tenderness that only those falling leaves knew, you smiled and listened
that in looking we exist in vacuums where we belong
that someone once wrote
we are not immigrants, nor take refuge
you say nothing today either, simply bury me
closer into yourself
in stillness of our sleep
my eyes fall on the window and i see myself again. the sky is a crisp blue and
the afternoon sun now touches our bodies
i am humming my song, i am looking
you're here, soon it will be time to wake up
Written by - Satyam Yadav
Satyam Yadav (he/him/his) is an Art and Culture writer based in New Delhi.
CREDIT: NEW YORK TIMES
Social Security and Trans Identity: An Inherent Paradox of Sorts
Social security of transgender individuals is a murky and multi-faceted discourse involving various stakeholders. The author’s reflections on social security are colored by the phenomenology of an urban, metropolitan, English-speaking, upper-class, upper-caste, self-identified trans-feminine Indian citizen. The author does not claim to offer a unifying voice for the multiverse of trans-experiences that center the theme of social security. This article merely encapsulates the author’s observations and perspectives at the current temporal-spatial juncture and is written with a genuine intent of creating discourse and conversations. The author is happy to learn and unlearn from other representative voices.
The ideas of social security and transgender identity seem to run antagonistic to one another in a cis-heteronormative society that is fundamentally trans-exclusionary. Conversely, a gamut of hate, prejudice, and negativity forms an indispensable part of the transgender experience: trans-phobia, unfortunately, constitutes the social norm. There seems to be an "epidemic of violence" against the American transgender community of color as pointed out by the American Medical Association. The situation in India is no better either and what pinches inconsolably is that often violence is carried out by natal families and intimate partners.
An article in Forbes dated 11th November 2020 by Jamie Wareham highlights a rather ominous observation: “Murdered, Suffocated and Burned Alive: 350 Transgender People Killed In 2020”. The article flagged trans-women as the most vulnerable category, accounting for 98 percent of the murders. Imagine how it feels as a trans-feminine person to read this, process it, and internalize that you can be killed for simply existing. No amount of therapeutic support (the therapist’s chamber becomes a trans-person’s second home ironically) can allay such trauma so deeply embedded in social realities.
CREDIT: NEW YORK TIMES
CREDIT: NEW YORK TIMES
NAVIGATING THE ‘OUTSIDE’ AS GENDER OUTLAWS
Piuli and Tanistha Bhagawati
The idea of law enforcement bodies has been imbibed into the minds of the people as a positive force that works towards assuring the safety and security of the citizens that they had pledged to assure as a part of their duty. However, the reality is far from benign as law enforcement forces, at times, have not only failed to protect the public as they were meant to but also transgressed their authority to afflict pain. To what extent do the police, and social institutions of ‘security’ in general, work for citizens, and to what extent do they exercise control and domination over the subjects of the state, is indeed something to ponder over. The question remains, whose ‘security’ do they work towards?
Ranjita Sinha, a well-known senior transgender activist in Kolkata was sexually harassed by a drunk cop on the street leaving her shocked and traumatized. In an exchange laced with lewd sexual remarks against Sinha and her companions, the offender physically assaulted the driver, fracturing his wrist when he tried to ward him off. The ordeal they had to suffer while registering the FIR stands testimony to the fact how difficult it is for trans people to let their grievances be heard, let alone adequately addressed.
CREDIT: NEW YORK TIMES
Living At The Intersections of Caste and Gender: The Struggle for Social Acceptance
Debarati Ganguly and Manish Dutta
The very foundation of a democratic society are the values of equality and liberty. Historically, the Indian society has restricted such universal values like equality only to certain sections of the society. Marginalized communities have always had to either fight against injustices meted out to them or had to succumb to it. With the rise of social movements against injustices, at present more number of groups and communities have now been incorporated into the fabric of democratic institutions in society. The practice of a rights-based approach is required for organising the society. This rights-based approach deliberately and explicitly focuses on the people achieving the minimum conditions for living with dignity leading to a greater degree of equality. Marginalized communities have revolted against such injustices because the only way to go against the increasing violence on the weak by the powerful is by questioning those structures of injustices which have perpetuated for long and have blatantly ridiculed equality.
The Indian Constitution in its Preamble declares the values like Liberty and Equality which forms the basis of the document. Article 16(4) in the Indian Constitution aims to represent the marginalized in a greater way in public life through reservation in government services. However, focusing only on the “public” cannot help in achieving the emancipatory objectives like equal opportunity in politics, education, employment, access to healthcare and most importantly living with dignity with full implementation of basic human rights. Such objectives can only be achieved when the “private” domain is reformed where many injustices arise. Oppressive systems like caste and patriarchy often shape the life of the individuals and disassociates them from resources and opportunities which further marginalizes them and makes them more vulnerable.
Existence and Expressions
Aravani Art Project aims to embrace the Transgender Community by creating consciousness, well being through art, awareness & social participation. While the visibility of Transgender people is increasing in popular culture and daily life, they still face severe discrimination, stigma and systemic inequality. With a mission of attempting to reduce this in society, we ARAVANI ART PROJECT bring about change in the way the society views the community.
Climbing the Mountain: Milin Dutta's Journey of Discovering Himself
“It is time we don’t keep our lives confined to black and white, but start appreciating rainbows too.” - Milin Dutta
In the last issue of our magazine we had reviewed the film ‘Jonaki Porua’ (Fireflies) a coming of age poignant film about a young trans woman from the interior of Assam coming to terms with her identity against the social prejudices that piled up against her by the prejudice the people around her subjected her to. The project has been undertaken with great care and love by both its director and producer, a first for them both.
Born in Assam, Milin was the fourth child after one brother and two sisters. However, his body betrayed him when he hit puberty, a time particularly gruelling for adolescents. Milin grew up feeling a great sense of discomfort and felt displaced in his own body. One thing that Milin was clear was that he would have to render himself financially capable to be independent. He enrolled himself in the Regional Engineering College in Surat to pursue his education.
In his time in Surat, Milin encountered two incidents that were an epiphany for him. In Surat, he encountered a hijra for the first time in his life. The experience left him confused because although he could relate to the person before him, his then transphobia made him hesitant to embrace it completely. It was during this time that he encountered the term ‘gay’ during a tennis match, a term he was not familiar with. On much research and much to Milin’s relief, it was revealed to him that he was not alone and that there were several people like him, across the globe. At that time, Milin was in a relationship with a girl, however, destiny had other plans when the girl separated from him on the pretext that she needed to get married, that is, be in a socially accepted relationship, something that her relationship with Milin would not permit.
Blood and guts and cocks and butts,
My future is not my own anymore.
No generations before, no generations after,
only fleeting moments of,
Sweaty bodies and flashing lights
and poppers and sucking and fucking in dirty bathrooms...
The stench of the death soaked hallways is
the smell of dying red roses and antibiotics,
of unsung songs of no histories.
This is our inheritance;
Faceless numbers and unmarked graves,
Stories lost in blank spaces and line breaks,
Broken hearts and broken bones
Save us but we don't want to saved;
Our lives are not our future.
There is no future, there is no past,
Only the everlasting cruising Utopia.
“No pride for some of us, without liberation for all of us.” - Marsha P Johnson
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