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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Meet Kajal, The First Transgender RJ Of Karnataka Who Plans To Become An Actress One Day

  • IWB Post
  •  February 7, 2019

This is the story of Kajal, who was assigned male at birth but realised that ‘female’ is the gender she identifies with. Ridiculed, humiliated, and discouraged for expressing her truth, she refused to falter. And today, her introduction has bypassed all the derogation she suffered. Allow me to present Karnataka’s first transgender Radio Jockey, Kajal!

Many people say that we must give opportunities to transgenders and bring them into the mainstream but few practice what they preach. From facing social boycott to being shunned by their own families, they hardly lead a life one can call easy. Same is the story of Kajal, but what is different here is the fact that her story has a happy ending, which gives way to a million more beginnings.

I’ve always found that having survived the vilest atrocities, transgenders still remain the most humble, kind and determined individuals, a thought which was reinforced as my conversation with Kajal progressed. Excerpts:

The first transgender Radio Jockey of Karnataka – what does this major accomplishment feel like?

I don’t have words to portray my emotions. While my community has ample talent and many skilled people, they rarely get a chance to shine. And here I am, living my dream.

But the road to this victory wasn’t an easy one, was it?

Sadly, no. I was around eight years old when even if others regarded me as a boy, I felt myself exhibiting the behavior of a girl – sitting with girls in the class, eating with them, wearing my mother’s sarees, doing household chores with her, trying on makeup when alone. And even when my teachers scolded me for sitting among girls, I couldn’t find what was wrong with it.

Then, when I was in VII standard, I met a transgender Mahadevi. She had long beautiful hair and always wore the prettiest sarees. But when I approached her and told her my wishes, she said, “Don’t join us! You have a family, a chance at getting a life, maybe a job later in life. All you’ll get to do here is either become a sex worker or a beggar.”

Lack of employment opportunities for transgenders pushes them to these extremes. Did you join the community even after this revelation?

Oh, yes. Initially, I was demotivated by Mahadevi’s reaction but suppressing one’s identity is no piece of cake. I frequently interacted with the transgender community but I wasn’t ready to either beg or be a sex worker but to be among people who understand you, to be part of a community that is not divided on grounds of caste or religion was a different feeling for me.

At the age of 13, I finally decided to get a sex reassignment surgery to be what I felt like. After this, I went to my village for my pre-university examination and I expected my parents to disagree with my decision there. But they accepted me with open arms, seeing just their child letting go of the boundaries of gender issues. With their support, I was ready to face any difficulty.

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The lack of opportunities in her village restricted her desire to have a career for herself. She shifted to Mumbai and constantly visited her village to meet her parents. In order to earn a livelihood, she started dancing in bars. Kajal then joined a circus company as a dancer, through which she got an opportunity nine years ago to go to coastal Karnataka, the place she now calls her home.

What was it that made Karnataka your permanent choice of residence?

I live in the village of Brahmavar in Uduppi. The love and respect this place has given me supersede the most expensive gem in the world. Zero judgments, Apeksha, zero! No one criticized my appearance or made comments on my gender. How can anyone leave a place that accepts you as you are?

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Kajal credits MGM College lecturer Manjunath Kamath as her mentor, guide, and catalyst behind her finally getting the confidence to realise her dreams. It was him who, on knowing her desire to become a radio jockey, helped her in improving her public speaking skills. He took her to colleges to share her life story in front of an audience and enrolled her in a two-month internship in a private TV channel, following which Kajal was invited to Chennai to a transgender award function to be felicitated.

How did you get this break as an RJ and got your own show?

Well, I was giving speeches on many transgender forums and it was there that Abhishek Shetty from Radio Sarang, 107.8, a community radio channel run by St. Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangalore, found me. He told me that he was impressed with my speech and asked me to come for an interview.

I thought my heart would burst with happiness when he said that I passed the interview and was now officially an RJ. It was an example that if provided the chance to shine, we don’t back down from proving our worth.

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Kajal’s show ‘Shubamangala’ kicked off on November 21 and airs on the community radio every Tuesday from 5-6 pm.

Now that you’re on this wonderful platform, do you plan to raise the matter of the rights of the LGBTQ community?

That goes without saying. The life we are reduced to live, the rights we are still fighting for, the basic human needs that we have forever lacked need to be fought for. While many in my community are already fighting this injustice on a large scale, I wish to add my own contribution now. And in the light of the New Transgender Persons Bill, I think it has become even more important.

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The Bill defines a transgender person as one who is partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male.  In addition, the person’s gender must not match the gender assigned at birth and includes trans-men, trans-women, persons with intersex variations and gender-queers.

Yes, the bill is receiving some tough opposition from transgenders. What do you think of it?

It is utterly demeaning! The Bill completely eliminates the option of identification by transgenders as either male or female and even reinforces injurious stereotypes about us being part male and part female. Also, it criminalizes enticing a transgender person to indulge in the act of begging. Do tell, when openly accepting what we are, it gives us no other option and when there is no employment reassurance provided by the government, how do they expect us to survive?

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When director Raviraj of the Rangabhoomi theatre came across her, he immediately cast her as the lead in his play ‘ICU Noduve Ninna.’

Well, whether the bill is passed remains to be seen. But your role in the upcoming play is surely going to be awesome!

Oh, that too remains to be seen *laughs* Well, the preparations are in full flow, rest is all up to fate.

Radio jockey, theatre artist, what is next in your plan book?

Haha! Well, there is this dream of mine to become an actress. And with the breakthroughs I have made in life, I am very hopeful for what the future holds and equally confident of my own will to achieve the things in life which many would consider impossible for us. 

This article was first published on December 21, 2017.

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