Do you use the men's bathroom or women's bathroom?
How do you have sex?
Do you live with your family?
Are you on hormones?
Is this a mental disorder that you have checked up on?
These are some of the less humiliating questions transgender individuals are asked consistently.
This is not the only sort of rejection they face. Being transgender was a condition that was classified as a mental illness, recently. Although many medical institutions have moved away from the view that being transgender is a result of a psychiatric disorder, still, the sigma persists, and some of the most influential medical bibles, including the WHO's International Classification of Diseases (ICD), continue to categorise transgender-ism as a diagnosis of mental disorder.
The stigma attached to transgender individuals is a result of ignorance and misinformation. That is why it was a step in the right direction when Hyderabad-based trans rights activists Rachana Mudraboyina and Moses Tulasi decided to make a YouTube series providing scientific information about transgender people.
The two met in 2015 during Hyderabad's LGBTQ pride parade, known as the Hyderabad Queer Swabhimana Yatra. Tulasi has always been an active LGBTQ rights activist, and first approached Mudraboyina to be a part of his documentary Walking the Walk, which chronicles the Swabhimana Yatra.
Mudraboyina, who heads the Telangana Hijra Transgender Samiti and passionately supports many NGOs, got Anjali on board for the web series.
TransVision, their YouTube channel, aims at making content for the trans community, by trans individuals. This channel shows how a community effort by members themselves can go a long way in taking their cause forward.
Their first web series aAA eEE Anjali is an informational under-5 minute short that wants to provide accurate information on trans identities.
Here's a look at the series:
The web series is going to have eight episodes, 5 to 10 minutes each, that speak about the lives of transgender individuals and help with busting myths associated with them. aAA eEE Anjali is being broadcast in Telugu right now, and the channel has Urdu and Kannada versions in the pipeline.
When we asked Moses Tulasi, the producer, on why they had chosen to go with the local language instead of choosing Hindi or English, he tells us that there are plenty of people who have watched the Telugu version. "There are many people who may not be able to afford a computer or a laptop, but they do have internet on their phones. Because we are based in Telangana, we thought it would be better to use the local language. This is because we know that this way there will be more regional penetration. And when you see something in English versus when you see something in your regional language — doesn't what you see in your regional language stay with you more? It makes a greater impact, you can absorb it better."
The three episodes of the Telugu version so far have been used to discuss the basic definition of transgender people and their ways of life. The first episode has the very charismatic Anjali Kalyanapu explain the simple ABCDs of the transgender community. That's where the series name comes from: 'Aaa Ee' refers to the Hindi vermala, so yes, it's a 101 on transgenders.
Mudraboyina feels the series is much needed because of the discrimination faced by transgenders. She says, "There's lot of discrimination against transgender people even in the LGBTQ community. If you go to gay parties, they will not even allow transgender people inside. We are exorcised from our community because there is so much misinformation."
She continues, "That is why it was necessary to make this web series. We have made this series and put in our own money. But it's a very expensive affair. Each episode costs more than Rs 10,000 to produce and edit. We need more resources. That is why now we are looking at a crowdfunding campaign for the Urdu and Kannada versions. We are also going to have eight episodes for the Kannada version, while the Urdu version will have nine episodes, and in one, Sonia, the narrator will tell her own story."
Here's Sonia Shaik's story, the narrator of the Urdu version: She was attacked with acid for being different, and the proceeds of the 2015 documentary, Walking the Walk, went towards a partial facial reconstruction procedure.
Here's Jhanavi Rai, the narrator of the Kannada series:
Mudraboyina says, "We hope people can just look past the stereotypical version of us and accept us as human beings."
Mudraboyina is a double post graduate who had a job with a prestigious NGO, but was forced to quit because she of the stigma associated with transgender-ism. She hopes the web series will help normalise their community. "I really want to spread more awareness about our community."
TransVision is still looking for funds for their web series through the crowdfunding website Wishberry.
Updated Date: Jul 15, 2017 12:11 PM