Photo by Shuchi Kapoor
Any person born a man, woman, or with intersex conditions, who identifies more with another gender, faces a complex and constant battle – within, at first, and then with the world outside. “Transgender” is one of the ways in which we’ve taken to defining and categorising them. When a man steps out of society’s boundaries, to establish himself as more woman than a man, it reflects an innate need for femininity. And then there’s the extent to which he will go to transform himself: sex-change surgeries and extensive cosmetic procedures give him what God didn’t.
Their acts of rebellion in response to the societal attitudes are well known, but as awareness and a sense of community increases, their vulnerabilities and emotional stresses are alleviated slowly. Today, though they may hold positions in public office and have voting rights, most still live on the fringes of society, as dancers, entertainers, prostitutes and beggars.
This series showcases the influx of some striking transgenders at a rather traditional Sufi festival, the Urs* at Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan last year. Their exuberance, confidence and beauty is arresting. They were visiting to pay their respects to the mazaar (grave) of the Sufi saint of Moinuddin Chishti. A feast for curious onlookers, their gender and their appearance may be ridiculed, but many years of discrimination have been met with clarity and conviction of who they want to be seen as. Sexy, feminine, all-woman.
*The Urs at Ajmer Sharif this year is predicted between the 1 - 10 May, the 7th or 8th day being the one when the transgender community gathers to pay its respects.