These transgender leaders battle all odds

A recent conference organised by the Tamil Nadu Aids Initiative in the city saw the participation of around 200 leaders from the transgender community. The event brought out several inspiring stories of leadership such as those of Princy and Manimeghalai.

Published: 02nd September 2013 08:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd September 2013 08:24 AM   |  A+A-

Manimeghalai-(left)-and-Pri

At one point of time in her life, Princy wanted to kill herself out of sheer desperation. Today, she has not only come up in life, but has also provided jobs to 60 other transgenders.

Princy was among the 200 odd leaders from the transgender community gathered for the two-day State-level conference for transgender community based organisation leaders organised by the Tamil Nadu Aids Initiative (TAI) here on Saturday.

Princy runs a successful catering business in Coimbatore that specialises in biriyani. Known as the Biriyani Masters, Princy and her team arrange smoking hot biriyanis for every event — be it a wedding, a temple feast or a birthday party.

 The orders could be placed over phone. “There are around 60 people who work with me in the catering service. According to the order we get, they earn anywhere between Rs 800 and Rs 1,500 per day,” she says.

But life had not been this promising always, she says. After finishing her degree, she got a job in a popular bank. “But the experience was horrible. I was often teased and abused, which included sexual harassment.

The employers would ask me to come to their house late in the night to deliver something or to come to office at odd hours. The harassment went to such an extent that I even thought of committing suicide at one point,” she says.

It was then that she came to know about the skill development and training provided by the TAI. She learnt catering and computer courses and also attended various leadership programmes at TAI. Soon she started her own business.

Today, she owns two two-wheelers and will soon be owning a car. She also assists transgender community based self-help groups to start their own business.

But Princy says that she was luckier than many others. For one, she had her family with her and more importantly, education that put her ahead of many others.

Many other leaders gathered at the conference have also managed to come out of unfortunate circumstances and build a life for themselves like Princy. Manimeghalai, a transgender from Salem, is one such. Abandoned by her parents at the age of 14, Manimeghalai had nowhere to go and no food to eat. She chose the path which most of her people fall into — sex work.

“It was the only thing you could do to keep yourself alive. When people see transgenders taking to sex work, they blame them. But nobody bothers to find out why they get into it. Most parents abandon us as soon as they find out our condition. Then what are we to do,” she asks.

Alienation of the community is in different ways, say the members. “If you are a transgender, chances are that you will drop out from school by the time you reach class seven or eight, due to the teasing and harassment. Even teachers take advantage. This is followed by abandonment by the family. The family often removes their name from the ration card. The certificates are also destroyed.  So, without any educational qualification, you are to make a living alone in a world where you are vulnerable,” says Manimeghalai, who after winning a reality show, has managed to make a living as a dancer and also as an employee of a TAI district office.

Princy adds, “When we get into an auto, we have to pay more. When we are waiting at the bus stop, police usually come with their lathis to drive us away and hence no one even dares to use the buses. And if you need a house for rent, you have to pay double.”

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