BENGALURU: Two days before her birthday, 34-year-old Rita Hester, a transgender black woman was stabbed to death on November 28 in Boston in 1998.
She was stabbed in the chest 20 times in her own apartment and her murder remains unresolved.The transgender community woke up to grief and darkness that day, having lost an outgoing transwoman who reveled in her ties with Boston’s transgender and rock-n-roll communities.
The community identifies the attack as a hate crime and Rita became one of the early black civil rights martyrs in the US.
Attacks on Transgenders
Decades later, the transgender community continues to be attacked physically and mentally with the US recording maximum number of hate crimes against the group this year.
Closer home, things aren’t much different, with the recent murders of transwomen in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and other parts of India.
Rita’s death inspired the Transgender Day of Remembrance, marked annually on November 20 – a day to memorialise those who have been murdered because of transphobia and to bring attention to the violence endured by the community.
Pride Protests Transphobia
As Bengaluru gears up for its Pride March, this year, Romal Laisram, founder, Queer Arts Movements (India) and one of the coordinators of the event says, “It was the transgender community that led the way to fight for basic rights, the lesbian, bisexual and gay community followed after. This Pride will also be a protest march against the transphobia in the Karnataka and the country and will also mark a remembrance of the lives we have lost in the transgender community”.
The event that is being spearheaded by Coalition for Sex Workers and Sexual Minorities’ Rights (CSMR), encourages participants to either dress in colour or black. Black wristbands and headbands will be distributed at the march to show support against the transphobia in the State.
Call for Apology on Degraded Portrayal
The group collectively condemns the demonising of transgender persons by a private channel, which carried misleading and sensationalised content as news, according to them. They also demand an apology from a host of another private channel talk show that they claim degraded and humiliated a queer couple. The community has urged the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to create stringent rules against negative and degrading portrayal of LGBTQIA persons.
Pivotal Role of an Ally
Shubham Rath, a student at IISc, talks about the transphobia he noticed among his friends in the city. “I was walking towards the campus with my friends and at a footpath near Orion mall, we met two hijra. My friends immediately slid past them avoiding any contact.
I talked with them as in where they were from, but had trouble conversing since it was Kannada. These friends of mine were so called liberal leftists,” he says.
In college campuses and technical institutes, “the role of a queer ally is pivotal to facilitate an ambiance where individuals have the encouragement to come out as who they are,” says the student who will be attending Pride this year as an ally in black supporting trans-rights.
Megha Sharma Bhagat, who will go colourful this Pride will be at the march as an ally. “As an ally we would like push against the phobia and cut through the non-understanding of the biases. As an ally I have to be able to stand up and prevent discrimination around me everyday,” she says.
Black in Pride
Alex Mathew will be attending Pride in a black kurta. The reason why he looks forward to Pride every year is that everyone irrespective of class or caste or race comes together to celebrate. “I was in a cab waiting near the signal and I came across a hijra. I gave her money and told her that I will see her for Pride. She spoke to me in English and told me she will be there. The cab driver was shocked that she could speak in English. I said, all of them are well educated,” he says.
Priyank, the organiser of the march presented by Namma Pride 2016 and the Karnatak Queer Habba says, “We will be holding a candle light vigil on Sunday in memory of the trans lives lost this year”.