There used to be a time when transgender people were not even allowed onstage, but that has changed.

In pictures Keralas vibrant Trans Fest for Onam week celebrations
news Transgender Monday, September 11, 2017 - 20:51

The Nishagandhi open air auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram, on Thursday night,  played host to the ‘Trans Fest’ as part of the Onam week celebrations which were organised by the Tourism Department of the Kerala government.

Put together by Oasis Cultural Society, a community-based ogranisation for transgender people in Thiruvananthapuram, the Trans Fest gave transgender persons the opportunity to showcase their talent.

The show, which had a packed audience, began with Kerala’s traditional Thiruvathira.

This was followed by a well-executed fashion show for trans men who displayed some top-notch costumes.

The trans women then performed a group dance based on the theme of the Koovagam festival which is celebrated by persons from LGBTQ communities in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu every year.

There was also a solo dance performance by a trans man. 

There was more fashion to follow - this time though, the theme was Kerala’s traditional attire.

A group dance from Baahubali which became a pan-Indian sensation found a place in the show. 

The night also saw some competition. ‘A Malayali Manka’ (Traditional Malayali Woman) contest was held. Sreemayi was the winner.

The transgender participants were happy with the reception they got from the audience. It was in 2016 that a Trans Fest was held for the first time as part of the Onam celebrations. However, it was held at Gandhi Ground and not at the main venue.
This time, the Fest was moved to the main venue.
“We consider it as recognition for our performance last year. It’s not a small thing that we got the main venue. The auditorium was full and there were no vacant seats. There were people standing to watch our performance. Years ago, there was a time when we were not allowed to even enter the stage. I used to watch Onam celebrations at Nishagandhi though,” Syama, a trans woman, told TNM.

Syama was the host for the event and the winner of the ‘Malayali Manka’ title last year. She was also the first to be awarded the merit scholarship for outstanding students instituted by the government for transgender students.

Tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran and tourism secretary P Bala Kiran were among the audience to watch the Trans Fest. The government-organised Onam celebrations every year is a cultural extravaganza, with programmes held at different venues.

“There were many memorable moments. One for me was when my teacher, who had taught me in 2004, came to the stage with her daughter to see me. Two friends of Renjini, a trans woman, identified her onstage and came up to honour her. They’d studied together in 1989 but they’d never known that Renjini was a trans woman. All this shows the growing acceptance in society for us, though not everyone supports us. There was a time when we were not able to even walk through the road during Onam celebrations because people would abuse us,” says Syama.

The participants claimed that it was only the second time that a fashion show was held for trans men in the country. The honour for the first ever show also goes to Thiruvananthapuram, where it was held in August at the Manaveeyam Veedhi fest.

“Some people were surprised seeing trans women onstage because they felt they looked ‘masculine’. The State President of Sexual and Gender Minority Federation, Sreekutty, and Sana, who has been working among us for a long time, took a lot of effort to pull this off. In the coming years, we will make the Fest better. Our people are really talented and we’ve decided to showcase our talent to the fullest whenever we get the opportunity,” says Syama.

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