“When we say transgender, people assume they know everything about us and continue to judge us with their skewed notions. You cannot blame them, because that is how the society has conditioned their thoughts. They often told us ‘Yeh log kuch nahin kar sakte’ (These people cannot do anything), but today we say ‘Jo log kuch nahin kar sakte, woh log kamaal karke dikhayenge’ (People who cannot do anything will do wonders),” says Anjali, one of the members of the YouTube channel TransVision which won the prestigious Laadli Media Award for gender sensitivity in Delhi last Friday.
TransVision is India’s first YouTube channel run by transgender people. Their web series aims to bust myths about the transgender community, in an attempt to do away with the societal discrimination that people with non-binary gender identities usually experience.
“The award is the biggest platform we have ever got and we never expected it. It is a big boost to our channel and is a recognition that the society is finally paying heed to our efforts and our voice is being heard,” says Anjali, who is also a an activist.
TransVision started off in 2017. Anjali says it has been difficult to run the channel without proper funding.
“Towards the end of 2016, after the brutal murder of a trans woman named Pravalika, Rachana (another transgender activist) and I watched a few videos on YouTube on the transgender community, all trans and homophobic in nature with misconstrued information. So, we decided why not run a channel that dispelled the rumours and myths around our community and we discussed the idea with our producer, Moses Tualsi, another transgen activist,” Anjali explains.
TransVision was thus born with Anjali, Rachana and Chandramukhi doing videos in Telugu, Soniya from Old City doing the Urdu version of the series and Jhanavi from Bengaluru, doing videos in Kannada.
Anjali, in of the episodes on TransVision
“We pulled off the first three videos pitching in money from our own pockets. Later, we went to a crowdfunding platform to raise funds. We were pleasantly surprised to see the generosity as we got our goal funds in less than a month,” Anjali says.
Shot on a crowdfunded budget of Rs 4.5 lakh, the almost finished first season of the series has nine episodes in each language, and each episode features a transgender person speaking about the much needed information pertaining to the community.
“Soniya, who does the Urdu version of the series, has been a victim of acid attack. The channel, in a way, is also a means of livelihood for many transgender people,” Anjali adds.
Anjali came out about her true identity during her youth. “My parents were ashamed of me and asked why I was behaving like a woman. My parents’ pressure and abuse made me leave home and I joined the culture of the Hijra community, dancing on streets and weddings for a living. I later got in touch with Rachana di and then became a full-time transgender activist.”
Talking about the recent ruling of the SC which read down Section 377, Anjali says there is no true victory until and unless the society stops discriminating against trans people.
“Rules are plenty on paper. For example, after the 2014 NALSA verdict that recognised the rights of the transgender community, it was another long battle for us to demand our rights in public spaces. In schools, offices or even public spaces, we have to fight for what rightfully belongs to us. People like me may want to fight, but other trans people from our community cannot afford to get into legal tangles and they are again pushed back either into begging or sex work,” Anjali says.
A change can be brought about only with proper awareness on the non-binary gender identities, says Anjali. “Awareness must begin from school. Multiple gender identities should be a part of the school syllabus and children should know what it means to be a trans man/woman.”
“Secondly, trans people should be given what rightly belongs to them. You cannot always blame parents who are hesitant to accept their child's true gender identity. They are scared as trans people command no respect and are often pushed into menial jobs that makes them the scum of the society. Once we find ourselves in respectable positions, our families would also be more welcoming,” Anjali opines.
With the award being a major milestone, the team now plans on starting a second season.
“We have decided to start a second season that would explore the lives of trans people who have made it big in their lives. We would interview them and collate experiences from around India. But the only problem we now face is funding. Once we get funding, our shows will be a befitting reply to all those who ridiculed us, who said ‘Yeh log kuch nahin kar sakte’. Like we say, ‘Jo log kuch nahin kar sakte, who log kamaal karke dikhaayenge.”