Empowering transgenders, one makeover at a time

PANAJI: Looking at transforming the difficult lives of those from the community, a fashion designer and hairstylist in Vasco is opening her salon to them.

While she is willing to conduct short-term beautician, hairstyling and hair cutting courses to make them self-sufficient, Joemy Barnett who is also an image consultant first wants to work on their image.

“In Bangkok one can’t differentiate between a transgender and a by-birth female. If they can look beautiful in Bangkok, why not here? Indians are no less beautiful,” Barnett says.

“Once they change their image, society will also change their impression of them and will be less discriminative. They shouldn’t stick out. They need to get a normal hold in society just like males and females,” she adds.

Only by working on their own image can they set an example for others and work in parlours. “Many salons on Bangkok employ transgenders and the clients don’t mind because they do their job well. As long as clients receive good service it shouldn’t matter. They have to refine themselves and keep people guessing .Why should they be identified as transgenders? They should be known as professionals,” she says.

Otherwise ostracised by society, Barnett hopes this small step will integrate them into mainstream life and equip them with skills to lead self-sufficient lives.

Transgender activist Diana Dias who has been working for the upliftment of the community for almost a decade welcomes Barnett’s offer. Dias says there are around 50 transgender persons, both locals and migrants, living in the state. Many have not been able to complete their education because they were abused in school as a result of their trans-identity, which also resulted in their families shunting them out of their homes.

“With no financial support, a majority of transgenders are forced to beg or engage in prostitution,” she says, adding that the short-term courses will benefit them and help them earn a decent living while holding on to their self-respect.

Ever since the landmark 2014 Supreme Court Nalsa judgment that recognized the fundamental and civil rights of transgender persons, Dias, the founder of Wajood Goa which works for the transgender community, gender non-conform children and intersex children in the state, has been been conducting advocacy sessions for students at schools, colleges and the .

There is very little knowledge about transgenders even four years after the judgement, she says, adding that the education department needs to bring children up to speed about the community just like it does on other communities in the country.

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