A few weeks ago, India got her first national level trans beauty pageant winner. Miss Transqueen India, Nitasha Biswas, is a 26-year-old transwoman pursuing her MBA.
Not only is this feat incredible because Nitasha was crowned the winner among 16 finalists, but because this pageant managed to involve over 1500 transwomen from different parts of India. The first and second runners up at Miss Transqueen India were Loiloi from Manipur and Ragasya from Chennai, respectively.
“The winner will go to Thailand for Miss International Queen, the first runner-up will compete at Miss Transsexual Australia. We are looking for another international pageant so that we can send the second runner-up too,” pageant organiser Reena Rai had told IANS.
Catch spoke to Nitasha about her plans, preparations, and what this victory means to the community. These are the edited excerpts from the interview:
DS (Durga M Sengupta): Could you tell me more about your background and how you decided to be a part of this pageant?
Nitasha: I hail from the 'city of joy' Kolkata. I've specialised in bachelors of media science, public relations and I'm currently pursuing my MBA in fashion management.
I learnt about Transqueen India via Facebook, where Reena Rai took this bold step of running such a pageant show. I decided to stand by her and be a part of this show. Besides, I've always dreamt of being a model/actor, so it is like a dream come true for me.
DS: Do you feel the responsibility of being India's first official trans pageant winner? What do you think it entails?
Nitasha: The heaviness of the crown is not just the weight of it, it has been the weight of the responsibility to empower my community, for uplifting the pride of my own people through various employment programs and by various laws.
DS: Do you have an idol or someone who has guided you along? Alternatively, tell us about what inspires you in your journey.
Nitasha: I did not have any idol as such, apart from following various successful transgender role models all over the world. I am a very self-nurtured individual.
DS: What are your views on India's trans rights bill? Is it problematic?
Nitasha: A mere law cannot change a country and its people. If a law has been passed, we have to see the various merits and demerits of the law e.g. workplace laws - there should be no discrimination in workplace. Also rape laws [for transgenders] should be more rigorous, safeguarding all other aspects just like for any other citizen.
DS: How do you intend to use your voice to talk about India's LGBT, or even specifically trans issues?
Nitasha: As I mentioned, more laws have to be passed, so my first step for my community would be employment, more job opportunities opening up in various sectors like IT, hospitals, corporate firms, entertainment industry.
I would like to form various educational programs to educate trans youth just like any other citizen, followed by rigorous job employment and measures to safeguard them.
DS: What are your personal ambitions in life, beyond being a voice for your community?
Nitasha: I would like to fulfill my wishes of being an MP or venture into Bollywood.
DS: What in your opinion are the biggest issues transpersons are facing in India? Is there a way to address them?
Nitasha: The basic and biggest issues that trans persons face are that of education, employment and safety. Yes, I want this message to reach the Indian government that we need more laws to support and safeguard us, we need school education opening out to all trans youth with the support of government as most of them are homeless.
We need more NGOs and government bodies supporting us for our betterment, just like everyone else.
DS: Lastly, if you could talk about your identity and if your family stood by you?
Nitasha: I am a trans model who is fulfilling her dreams from childhood. I always knew that I have to do this as I had gender dysphoria.
I've had my elder brother's strong support, and, with time, my dad came around. So my family stood by me throughout and they still support me.