Founder Of Trans YouTube Channel, Rachana Scripts Her Story To Erase The Stigma
- IWB Post
- May 17, 2018
In 2014, in the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) vs. Union of India case, the apex court declared Hijras and Eunuchs as the third gender, providing them a legal identity along with seven other directions. This was observed as a historic and progressive decision, one which gave hope to the transgender community of a brighter and more secure future.
Three years later, the majority of Transgender community is still struggling to get equal opportunities in the society thereby making it difficult to sustain themselves, financially, socially, and also emotionally.
Hyderabad-based Transgender Activist, Rachana Mudraboyina, tried to understand the stigma around Transgenders and how it can be removed.
In an interview with IWB, Rachana tells me, “There’s still so much violence against the trans people which results from stigma and unresolved issue of comfort quotient with the transgenders. In fact, what disturbed me the most were these ridiculous videos going viral on the Internet propagating horrendous misconceptions about our community. Some claimed that Transgenders are born due to hormonal imbalances, some said that it’s a mental disorder, and some promoted that it results from mistakes or misgivings of the parents. It appalled me and made me sit and think of why there’s so much stigma and wrong information about Transgender community.”
Hence, she used the same platform of social media and Internet and started a YouTube Channel, TransVision. The channel aims to give people accurate and scientific information about the Transgender community and the issues relating to them.
Before asking further about her work for TransVision, I deviate and explore her personal story which led her to become a catalyst for change in the mindsets of people towards Trans community.
A transwoman herself, Rachana had to struggle to find a voice to come out and embrace her true identity.
“Like most other trans people, I, too, waited long enough before coming out and opening up about my identity to my family and society. All of us face this problem due to financial insecurity and dependence on our families up to a certain age. After my graduation, I came out to my parents and then started living alone in Andhra.”
To sustain herself, Rachana says she took up jobs in NGOs and also did other petty jobs, but, there were two issues.
“One, most NGOs face funding issues due to which the salaries are not hefty enough and sometimes get very delayed also. In other jobs, too, I had to face this situation and would not get the salary I deserved for my work. Secondly, I switched my jobs frequently because the people around me were not comfortable working with me because of the stigma attached to Transgenders and so, I was forced to leave the jobs,” explains Rachana.
Unfortunately, Rachana had to resort to sex work in order to provide for herself.
“I opted to become a full-time sex worker. However, nothing could stop me to study further and I earned not one but two master’s degree, one M.Com and other M.A. in Social Work,” she says.
Along side, she also continued working with NGOs and also joined Pehchaan Project for transwomen as an Advocative Officer. This was her last job, says Rachana.
“I was jobless again and needed to sustain myself. Again, I started working as a sex worker.”
In 2014, Rachana was one of the founding members of ‘Telangana Transgender Hijra Samiti,’ a collective to address Trans issues, rights of the Transgender Community, and violence against the Trans people.
“We deal with crisis management, almost every day because violence and crimes against trans people are more common than you can think.”
Last year, she was also a part of the transgender group from India to participate in the US exchange program where she raised the issue of legal policies for the transgender community.
“There have been pathbreaking judgments in favor of the Trans community and there are a lot of guidelines for them nationally, as well as, internationally. However, they don’t have policies for our community due to which we cannot fight for our rights,” she explains.
With TransVision she wants to promote the power of dialogue and how it can change the underlying perception of the society towards their community. She also addresses another important issue of how even the ‘educated’ lot of the society is not sensitized towards Transgenders and their rights.
Rachana points out, “We all have been brought up with the same stereotypes. As a social being, me, you, all of us, are brought up with certain perceptions. And, if you observe closely, all these perceptions, stereotypes, and even the educational system is based on the patriarchal accepted lines. There’s no gender system explanation in the text books. So, when it comes to being sensitive and accepting towards the Transgenders, there’s no difference between educated or uneducated.”
I go, “Exactly! Thanks for saying this and explaining it so precisely and easily.”
Share with us the few things about the Trans Community that you are tired of hearing and addressing.
a) How are they born?
b) Are we born like this only? Is it a mental disorder or result of some hormonal imbalance?
c) Third and the most heartbreaking thing we hear a lot is: Is there no other work for you to do? They don’t understand our life long struggle to open up about our identity and find work. Most of are forced to either to take up sex work or beg. They only see the end result which is so unfortunate. No one understands our systematic exclusion from the society and tags us uncultured, bad, and loud.
And, what’s the most ridiculous argument you have heard from transphobic people?
Oh, recently, I have been getting this a lot: “Why do you need to sensitize people towards Transgenders? Why can’t you just mind your behavior in public?” Unfortunately, they think we only do certain things to attract the attention of the public.
In the first episode that came out, you also included Intersex in the Trans Community. However, there are Intersex activists who argue that they have struggled long enough to establish a separate identity and do not like to be called Transgenders. What’s your take?
The Government in the judgment has included Intersex in the community and I agree that there’s this big debate going on, internationally, about it. See, trans is a big umbrella term! There are two philosophies and two thoughts here. One, Intersex people want to be only identified as a separate entity. But, there are a few Intersex people also who identify themselves as Trans. And, so, I think everything is interlinked, and we need to see Gender as a spectrum. What’s more important is self-identity!
Apart from being the producer, you also write the scripts for the episodes. Tell us about your research and how you compile them?
See, each episode covers different topics and so, we have to research it well as we want to present accurate and scientific information. While initially, we’ll explain the basics regarding our Transgender community, later on, we’ll also cover subjects like National and International Guidelines and Principles, Trans space in the society and struggles, National and International Trans Celebrities, etc.
We want to keep our content as simple as possible so that it can be easily understood by everyone.
What’s your goal for:
a) Yourself on your personal front
*laughs* Personally, I have no goals. I don’t think about the future and live by the day. But yes, for TransVision I wish to see more and more transpeople coming together and gaining ownership in our initiative. Also, another important focus of TransVision is to open up employment opportunities for Transgenders. And, if all goes well, it would be great if we can have our own TV channel.
Rachana also emphasizes that the Transgender people must become a part of the policy-making system.
“The issue is that there’s no one from us representing our issues and helping the Government make policies for us. So, we not only have to fight and protest for our rights but, we have to become a part of the system to actually bring a change. And so, I urge Transpeople to contest in elections and become a part of the system.”
Up till now, two episodes and three teasers on TransVision has been self-funded by Rachana. These episodes are in Telugu, Kannada, and Urdu and all of them have English subtitles. however, she has started a crowdfunding campaign to accommodate for her upcoming episodes. She has raised half the pitched amount, however, if she’s unable to raise the full amount, the already raised amount will be returned to the donors. So, please help her carry on this noble initiative and contribute to her crowdfunding campaign, here.
This article was first published in 2017.