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Apsara Reddy On Being The 1st Transgender Office Bearer For Congress, Section 377, And Transgender Bill

  • IWB Post
  •  February 6, 2019

It has almost been a year since Apsara Reddy made history and became the first transgender office-bearer of the Congress.

Reddy, who hails from Chennai, completed her higher education from Australia and England and has the experience of working as a journalist in India and abroad. In a recent interview with Huffington Post35-year-old Reddy talked about the experience of becoming the first transgender office bearer in Congress, the hardest phase of her life, Section 377, and the transgender bill.

Here are the excerpts: 

On becoming the first transgender office bearer for Congress

“This was the moment that told me that all the decisions I had made, all the internal battles I had fought, all the battles I had fought with the world, and all the abuse and prejudice I had taken, this was the answer that proved I was right.”

“The amount of media attention it garnered and the amount of love from all the quarters just drowned out the negative voices. A lot of people, who I had not met for years, called up to congratulate me. There were relatives of mine who regretted being rude to me and apologized. It brought back so many more people into my life. It changed my life overnight.”

On media’s portrayal of transgender individuals

“I believe that transgender women should access all spaces, but when she becomes headline news just because of her identity — even when I became general secretary of Mahila Congress — focusing only on gender takes away from the sanctity of that position. The press needs to move beyond just covering the sights and sounds of transgender women which are so typical.”

“The media needs to focus on the actual event. For instance, me joining the Mahila Congress could have also been more than a transgender woman getting a chance in politics. It could have been about the role, what does it mean for mainstreaming, what does it mean for the overall politics and the mindset of politicians.”

On coming out to her family

“I was 15. We had a lot of emotional conversations, a lot of unpleasant conversations. We cried a lot. My mum wanted me to be happy, but she was also afraid of the health impacts of transitioning. What relatives would say, what my future would be, but I tried to explain to her that there is no guarantee of happiness for any woman.”

“You can’t prescribe happiness and it has to happen in the course of life. If the choices I make, make me happy as an individual, I’m sure I can go find happiness in the world. I convinced her, I took her counseling, I took her to the hormone doctor that I had found, who counselled her on the effects of hormones. We went through the surgery part when the time came. My mum was my biggest support system.”

On the hardest phase of her life

“I can talk about a recent incident. My parents, my grandparents, everyone is part of this club called Cosmopolitan Club, which is more than a 100-year-old club. I went there as a child with my grandparents and I was very happy. There was lovely biryani. I spent time playing with kittens on the lawn. I wanted to become a member. I applied for membership and paid my membership fee. They gave me my membership and I thanked them on Facebook.”

“A Tamil news channel carried the news that a 100-150-year-old club had accepted a transgender woman as a member. The moment that came out, people who were jealous, or had issues with transgender women, actually made them cancel my membership. I got a letter saying I have been rejected. Fighting a court battle for membership in a club, where you are not even welcome, is not what I wanted to do. It is disheartening in this day and age and after coming so far.”

On her work as a Congress office-bearer

“I have to be a strong spokesperson for women in the country. I have to work towards gender justice, empowering more women to come into leadership roles. I have to find women with political goals and bring them into the system. I’m protesting and lobbying against any injustice that happens towards the girl child. I’m also working on the manifesto — to make it more conducive for the LGBT community.”

On Section 377

“I think reading it down has made the community feel a little more secure and confident because the courts believed in their fight. It has also helped a lot of children come out to their families and say that things are no so bad. The Supreme Court has made us legal and I think it is time you accept us. We can’t expect a 360-degree turnaround in people’s opinion and mentality but I think it is a start.”

On the Transgender Bill

“When the Transgender Bill says the transgender community needs rehabilitation and looks at us in a pitiful way, it takes away from our position of equal rights. I think we need to be given reservation in education, housing, and medical subsidies. Without this, how do we rehabilitate?”

On the definition of transgender

“We need gender identity to be described by the individual. The bill, in its current form, says a district medical officer will prescribe whether you are a woman or a man. But from the day you start your transition, from a boy to a girl, whether you have your surgery or not, when you are feminizing yourself, you should be known as a woman. I don’t think anyone has the right to tell you that you are man enough or woman enough.”

H/T: Huffington Post

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