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How One Woman’s Hope to ‘Give Back’ Created India’s Trans Queen 2017

Reena believes that acceptance and inclusion of the LGBT community can only happen if we start treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve.

The Trans Queen India 2017, a beauty pageant for the transgender community is being held in Gurugram on August 27, 2017.

As many as 1,500 participants battled it out to make it to the top 16. At the final event, 16 contestants from Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Karnataka and other states will compete to win the Miss Trans queen India title.

The winner will also get to represent the community in Thailand in the Miss International Queen and the first runner-up will compete in the Miss Transsexual Australia.

 

The finalists

This is not your typical pageant with global fashion and beauty brands supporting the event. This pageant is being organised using the personal funds of organiser Reena Rai.

It is the result of an unlikely friendship between her and Vippy, a close friend, a transgender and a participant in the pageant.

Vippy Mua was employed in a beauty parlour back when she was still a man. Reena was a client at the parlour and she always felt that Vippy was a female trapped in a male’s body.

But the untimely death of Reena’s best friend left her in a state of depression. She stopped visiting the parlour and went into a shell. This was also the time that Vippy was undergoing a sex transformation. When Reena met Vippy a few months later, the transformation was complete.

“I met Vippy at a time when I was very depressed, having just lost my best friend, I was searching for a purpose in life. Meeting Vippy post her transformation was like a life boat that I held on to tightly.” Reena told The Better India.

Reena started inviting Vippy to her home and spending a lot of time with her. “The more time we spent, the more I learnt about the community. It became very clear to me that I wanted to make a tangible difference to the transgender community.”

One of the most heartening moments of their friendship was when Reena’s 11-year-old daughter started addressing Vippy as ‘Masi’ (aunt).

For Vippy the fact that someone outside the community was accepting her was a huge deal. But things really changed after Reena attended a meeting.

 

Preprations underway

“It was during this time that I attended the Hijra Habba, an annual event for the transgender community. Sitting there amongst the LGBT community it struck me that we, as straight people, do nothing for them. It was perhaps here that the idea to do something impactful for them germinated,” says Reena.

Inception of Trans Queen India

Reena believes that acceptance and inclusion of the LGBT community can only happen if we start treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Speaking about the pageant, she says, “I wanted to give these girls a platform that will take them places. Having been with them for some time now, I shudder when I hear the stories they tell me.”

The vulnerability of the community sometimes pushes members into jobs that they are not comfortable with.

 

Read, steady, go

“At 13 or 14 years of age, these children are trying to grapple with their sexuality and most often unable to understand it. Instead of helping them, we start shunning them and making fun of them. That is when the problem begins.” Reena adds.

Reena is extremely proud of the 16 contestants in this pageant and tells me about each of their achievements.

While one of the girls is a qualified lawyer, another girl is pursuing a law course. These are the stories that Reena wants to bring to the fore. She is confident that when people see what the transgender community is capable of, mindsets will change.

Not an easy journey

When Reena mooted the idea of organising this pageant she got a lot of flak from all quarters.

“The only support I had was from my husband, daughter and mother. I remember asking my mother what she thought of my idea and her words helped me see this through.”

 

Reena Rai

Her mother told her that if anyone were capable of doing this, it would have to be her. Talking about the flip side, she says, “I had many people who discouraged me, told me I was being foolish by associating myself with the community, and even told me I would fail miserably.”

These comments pushed Reena further into making a difference.

Work for the pageant began in November 2016, and Reena tells me how tough it has been financially.

“We have unfortunately not been able to find any takers. While many people applaud us, no one is willing to come forward and lend their name and financially support us. I was also told that associating with us would tarnish the image of the company,” she says.

After several months of trying to get sponsors on board, Reena gave up on the idea. This pageant is now being conducted from the savings that Reena has.

There were many moments of self-doubt, she says, “I didn’t want my passion to come in the way of my daughter’s education. For the first time, we got a call from the school since we were unable to pay her fees on time. These were the moments when I wavered.”

Somehow Reena kept going, and with the support of her husband, has come this far.

She urges us to come forward and support the transgender community. She tells me with conviction that with a little support from us they will be able to come forward and do wonders.

She also hopes that seeing her, many more will take this up and work towards real inclusivity.

Miss Trans Queen 2017 is raising funds on Milaap. You can help them by contributing here.

 

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