“Crap, she's coming this way. I'm really scared of these people,” said my friend, desperately looking away from the car window.
The source of her discomfort was a transwoman from the Hijra community in Delhi, out in the sweltering heat, begging and blessing all at once. She didn't scare my friend the way men scare us on the streets, she scared her because she was different. A problem a little bit of education and sensitisation could resolve.
TransVision, a YouTube channel, has started a video series that aims to bring about this very basic education. The lack of awareness about the trans community is so acute that the show starts with the absolute basics, basics that we quite obviously still don't know.
Aptly titled aAA eEE Anjali after the varnamaala, an Indian way of saying ABCs, the show is a simple narrative by Anjali, our teacher and a transwoman herself. Released on 26 April, the show will release new episodes on the channel every Wednesday.
Also, the makers plan on launching an Urdu and Kannada version, beyond the existing Telugu show.
“Providing accurate and scientific information is the main goal of this program,” says Anjali more than once in the first episode.
Anjali talks about questions we must never ask a transperson, questions that are quite obviously insensitive, but are asked anyway because of the lens through which people often view transpeople. Juvenile questions like “What's your real name?”, intrusive questions like “Do you live with your family members?”, and completely inappropriate and hurtful questions like “Do you have sex or not? If yes, then how?”
The importance of dialogue
Director and Writer of aAA eEE Anjali, Rachana Mudraboyina is an independent trans activist and a founding member of the Telangana Hijra Samiti.
“When I googled [on the subject] I realised there's no proper information about gender, there's no gender education. Instead, there are a lot of misconceptions and widely [propagated] myths,” Rachana tells Catch.
Insisting that the media does little to nothing to educate on the matter, she says, “I realised that everywhere there's transgender issues, transgender problems, and mostly connected with HIV. Because a lot of funding is going into HIV. But general information on gender sensitisation is very less.”
So she decided to do something about it, and that's quite simply how the show was born.
Rachana, over the course of this show, wants to cover more of what they already have in episode one, and, in addition, talk more about laws, both national and international. She also plans on covering the various transgender festivals in India.
“There is a lot of misconception and misinformation being spread around, about hormones, blood, and that this is a disease. We need to challenge that and giving the proper information is the only way, I feel, we can challenge it,” she says.
Insisting that “dialogue is important”, she adds, “Maybe people will carry on the message, maybe not. But there will be a dialogue.”
Anjali's musical journey
This isn't the first time Rachana has worked with Anjali. Previously, the duo has worked on a track that features extensively in aAA eEE Anjali.
“Anjali and I have worked on a Tap Music Records album before. I was the lyricist... if you've seen the song Unknown Pain of Transgenders. I have written that song and Anjali sang it,” says Rachana.
It is the same song that plays as the end credits roll on the show.
“Anjali wanted an alternative livelihood. Most transgenders in India resort to either begging or prostitution. She wanted to do something different,” shares Rachana.
“So, we wanted to create our own model of employment and [earning] livelihood.”
From Walking the Walk to talking trans
As Anjali tells us in the show, “Depending on the region, culture, gender identity, dressing pattern, etc., trans people have several identities worldwide.”
“Just as people vary by height, weight, colour of skin, their gender also varies as men, women and trans,” she adds, for our benefit.
Producer and Editor of the series, Moses Tulasi, speaks to Catch about the importance of intersectionality within the Queer Rights movement.
“One of the things the queer community across the globe lacks is the empathy towards the marginalised of the marginalised – which is the transgenders. The movement is usually led by white upper-class gay men. Add to it upper caste, in the Indian context,” he says.
Moses met Rachana while shooting his film Walking the Walk, a documentary on the 2015 Telangana Queer Pride march.
“In 2015, [when Telangana Samiti formed] there was a conscious effort to redefine the queer movement, to bring in intersectionality, form alliances with the Dalit rights movement. One of the terms to redefine it was to put the transgenders at the forefront.
“There was a lot of people within the community who thought this was hijacking the LGBT movement. And a lot of these people, within the movement, are not aware of socio-economic problems,” he recalls.
Moses thinks that the show, therefore, would be “enlightening for both outsiders and people within the community.” And we can only hope he's right.
Update: TransVision has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund its efforts. Click here to donate to their cause.