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Documenting the third gender

Transgenders speak for their rights at a film screening

Photos: S. Siva Saravanan

Making themselves heard (Top)Transgenders

"Celebrations and fanfare at Koovagam festival is just one happy day in a year in the life of a transgender. What about the suffering we undergo during the remaining 364 days?" asks Padmini, a transgender.

A dancer and the winner of Miss. Koovagam title this year, she also fights for the rights of transgenders as secretary of Thaai Vizhudhugal Trust.

Stills from Navarasa

"Awareness on the third gender should reach the youth in schools and colleges and parents. Our soul is that of a woman trapped in a man's body. We have an identify as a third gender and we want to be respected," she told the audience at a recent screening of Santosh Sivan's national award winning documentary Navarasa, which put the spotlight on transgenders. And, they turned out in good numbers to voice their woes at the interaction organised by Cinema Club of Coimbatore at Kasturi Sreenivasan Trust auditorium.

The story

The film revolves around the story of a young girl Shweta who sets on a journey to Koovagam festival to bring her uncle Gautam back. He runs away to marry the deity Aravan at the festival. Along the journey she gets a peek into the way of life of a transgender and their culture.

Stills from Ammayyappa

Bobby darling, actor in Bollywood, brings out the sadness and struggles faced by transgenders by narrating her story to Swetha. When a documentary film-maker in the movie asks why they make a nuisance in public places and harasses people on trains. Revathy, a transgender replies: "It is frustration on the society," and asks "Have you been beaten up your brother in a cricket bat?" "I'm a Hindu, my husband is a Christian and my mother-in-law follows Islam. We live in harmony and follow religious unity," says another transgender. Their request - let us live in peace.

Transgenders who watched the film say it failed to highlight their issues. "Society including parents, relatives and friends abandon us and illtreat us," says 55-year-old Madhana from Ukkadam, who makes a living as a caterer. She, along with a group of 10 transgenders work as caterers and live as one big family.

"We feel every bit a woman. So, we love to plait our hair, wear flowers and wear skirts. And, that's when the problem begins at homes. Films should create awareness among parents to accept a transgender child," they add.

Issues on lack of a third gender column in application forms were also discussed. Artist Jeeva commented the film as a visually appealing docu drama that failed to capture the emotional trauma of transgenders. Ammayyappa, a 15-minute documentary by Saveetha of Cinema Club portrayed the lives of transgenders Pattu, Mayil and Jeevatha in Koundampalayam and discussed society related issues and their voting rights. Deepan's short-film `Thirunangai' used camera as a character (transgender) to record one day in the life of a transgender.


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