No one has come forward to support the cause of transgenders: Reena Rai

 No one has come forward to support the cause of transgenders: Reena Rai

Saurabh Tankha

Be it the denial of jobs or discrimination in society, she has highlighted issues and concerns of Transgenders. Her aim is to create a Trans-phobia free India and sensitise kids, youth and parents on gender sensitisation. She wishes to make Trans women self-sufficient and self-reliant. The founder-chairperson of Deepa Ardnareshwar Empowerment Foundation, an NGO working for the cause of Trans women, Reena Rai conceived the novel idea of organising Miss Trans Queen India, the country’s first ever beauty pageant for transgender women. The idea behind this event was not only to give platform to transgender women for showcasing their talent and beauty but create larger advocacy around Trans issues and appreciate as well as recognise the support of the masses.

We has a chat with the woman who lives with a cause…

When was the first time that you decide on working for Trans women? And then holding a beauty pageant for them?
It was five to six years back when I forged a deep friendship with Vippy. This friendship opened new doors of knowledge about transgenders and the LGBTQI community. I got to know about what all this community goes through due to lack of acceptance by society and it pained me a lot. As I pondered over it, I realised I didn’t want to go away like that. I wanted to do something worthwhile. Thus, I decided to hold a beauty pageant for Trans women. The idea behind this event was not only to give a platform to transgender women for showcasing their talent and beauty but also to create larger advocacy around trans-issues and appreciate and recognise the support of the people.

What difficulties did you have to face with respect to the same?
There was a lot of social antagonism associated with beauty pageants. No one till date has come forward to support the cause of transgenders.

On Section 377…
I feel youth are now more open than others in society. We regularly do gender sensitisation to make them aware of transgenders and I hope when they grow up, they will be more conscious and do not discriminate. As far as the mindset is concerned, we have a long way to go and this is just the first step.

Tell us something about Deepa Ardnareshwar Empowerment Foundation and plans for the future…
Under the Foundation, we have started gender sensitisation programmes with the youth. This is just a small step we are taking to make the youth understand about transgenders. We are tapping children at the right age so that they don’t grow up with prejudices. Transgenders are born to heterosexual parents so why discriminate against them? Whenever I go for a workshop, I take my rainbow family along so that they can talk about their experiences. I begin my talk addressing mothers as I feel no one can ridicule a transgender child if a woman stands by them. The sad part is mothers themselves throw out their kids.

When you say you dream of a Trans-phobia free India, what kind of challenges do you foresee?
Starting from people’s attitude to getting no support, especially sponsorship of such events. I started this venture with literally no support and received a lot of flak from the people at large. The only support I received was from my husband, my mother and my daughter who encouraged me at every level. Even after three years, no one comes forward to financially support such events and have been doing from my personal savings. This becomes difficult but we have been able to sail through at all times.

Has the attitude of society changed for the better from the time media has started highlighting the problems of transgenders?
I feel good that media has highlighted issues that trans women face especially in hospitals, clinics etc. But people in general are still not open to making inclusive. It will take time for ordinary people to accept them as part of society.


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