The exhibition titled 'Man, I am' ran for three days in Thiruvananthapuram and was inaugurated by MP Shashi Tharoor.

In pictures The lives of 6 trans men through a Kerala photographers lensPhoto of Eby Kuttan. Courtesy: P Abhijith.
news Gender Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 15:19

Dreams, aspirations, struggles, triumphs… Experiences that every human being has. While we know about and talk about some people, we refuse to acknowledge that others even exist. Now, a photographer from Kerala has attempted to shed light on the lives of transgender men through a photo exhibition in Thiruvananthapuram, called ‘Man, I am’.

P Abhijith, a senior news photographer, has photographed six trans men, and his pictures were exhibited at the Museum Auditorium in the city between December 10 and 12.

Transgender men are persons who are assigned female at birth, but identify as boys/men. Abhijith says he has been researching and studying the trans community for about a decade now. In his photo exhibition, Abhijith attempts to tell the stories of six trans men through their everyday pictures.

The exhibition features Eby, Ishaan K Shaan, Sonu Niranjan and Vihaan Peethambar from Thiruvananthapuram, Christy Raj from Bengaluru and Selvam from Tamil Nadu.

“I have been working with the community for a decade now. Earlier, I have documented transgender women,” says Abhijith. “It used to be very difficult to get them to come out of their shell. But things have changed now. The trans community can exercise more freedom in Kerala now,” he adds.

Abhijith says that while trans women have more acceptance in society today, the same is not true for trans men.

“This is the first time I am documenting trans men and it was a tough task to get them under the spotlight,” he says.

One of the men featured in the exhibition, Ishaan, tells TNM that events like this would help people like him come out to their friends and family.

“I was born in a Muslim family and I found it difficult to come out and speak for my gender and sexual rights. I left home, and it was only after I met a lot of people that I mustered the courage to speak for myself. Now, I live with my family, and my parents are very supportive,” Ishaan says.

“In fact, I am planning to bring my mother to the exhibition very soon,” he adds.

Ishaan K Shaan says, “I pay heed to the spiritual call from within and live the way shown by the Almighty.”

Vihaan Peethambar, a trans activist, gave up a thriving advertising career in Dubai to live his truth. He hopes to inspire the public to join the struggle in normalizing trans identities.

“Growing up I never realized I was girl. When everyone asked me why do you always walk and behave like a boy, I never knew how to tell them it is because I AM a boy. So I smiled outside and wept in my heart,” Vihaan says.

Eby Kuttan is the youngest of seven children, and identified as a boy at the age of eight. He was forced to discontinue his education, and left home at the age of 24.

“It was traumatic. The painstaking metamorphosis of costume, hairstyle, appearance and breasts… But the ordeal turned out to be a never ending life of joy once I became a man,” Eby says.

Sonu Niranjan is a native of Thiruvananthapuram. Sonu dropped out of school when he was in Class 12. He is now a film and modelling enthusiast.

Sonu lost his mother at the age of 20 and was forced to stay with his relatives. He later shifted to Bengaluru. He is now a member of the state trans gender justice board.

Selvam, who hails from Tamil Nadu, is pictured with his friends, and with his brother Mani, who is a visually challenged Mridangam artiste.

“I am ‘Annan’ (older brother) for my younger brother Mani who is visually challenged. He is a Mridangam exponent and he needs a job. I have to find him one,” Selvam says.

Christy Raj was adopted and brought up by a trans woman named Kalpana. He was forced to quit school when he was in Class 9, after he faced ridicule and stigma. Later, he left home. Now, Christy is working with the trans community on several issues.

“Asserting myself has given me a strong and firm mind to uphold my rights time and again,” Christy says.

All pictures by P Abhijith.

Also read: Transgender Persons bill: It claims to grant rights, but will end up curtailing them

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.