THOOTHUKUDI: A History professor in Thoothukudi trains transgenders on folk dance forms and performing arts to increase their social status. Dr M Sankar of VOC College, who trains the transgenders, told TNIE that 13 transgenders have been trained so far in Parai Aattam and Karagaattam. “They are now being trained for Poikkal Kuthirai. Soon they will be trained on Oyil Aattam, Theru Koothu, Marakaal Aattam, Silambaattam, Sattai Kuchi and Kaliyal Aattam,” he said.
Sankar, who has been training the transgenders for two hours a day at Otha Tsunami Temple Ground for the past few weeks, said the participants were enthusiastic and were quick learners when it comes to dance forms. “I would say trans people, in general, perform folk dances in an elegant and beautiful manner. I believe they are inherent dancers. With regular practice, they can become professional folk artistes,” said Sankar, who has been performing traditional folk dance forms since 2004.
The participating transgenders will be registered with the Tamil Nadu Department of Art and Culture. The registration will get them benefits from government such as offers to perform in government and private functions, he said. The transgenders mostly get opportunities to perform during Dussehra, Deepavali, Pongal and temple festivals. On most of the days in a year they remain jobless.
Professor Sankar, who did a project titled ‘Transgenders’ social life’ for his MA (History) thesis in 2010, said transgenders were sensitive to the ways they were being seen by different members of public. He said he gives them counselling for half an hour before the training. “During dance programmes, they are expected to show flesh and such an act shows them in a bad light,” he pointed out.
India’s second transgender advocate Viji, who is the Founder and Managing Trustee of Anbu Trust that took steps on identifying the transgenders for the training, told TNIE that she wanted a social change among the transgenders so that they do not depend on alms and anti-social activities. “Becoming a folk artiste would make them feel empowered. After training, the transgenders will be roped in for Sahi Folk Arts Club, a club dedicated for transgender folk dancers, she added.
Sankar said though 1,200 folk art forms were mentioned in Tamil literature, only 120 of them are known and among them only a few are being performed. To revive the forgotten folk dance forms, the transgenders will be trained on the now nonexistent Kai Silambaattam, Annakodi Aattam, Aaliaattam, Irular Aattam, Lavanya Paadalgal, Urumi Melam, Ottaga Aattam and other dance forms, he said. Aarthi, a transgender, said: “I hope I would get income regularly when I become a professional.” Welcoming the State government’s creation of an exclusive website for folk artistes, Sankar sought an exclusive website for transgender dancers.
More benefits from the government
The participating transgenders will be registered with the Tamil Nadu Department of Art and Culture. The registration will get them benefits from government such as offers to perform in government and private functions, he said. The transgenders mostly get opportunities to perform during Dussehra, Deepavali, Pongal and temple festivals.