“You’re not a real woman," was what an agent for a modelling shoot once told 22-year-old transwoman and model Archie Singh.
“I am a woman, and I’m trans but I’m equally a woman. My official government ID recognizes me as a woman, and I have had gender-reassignment surgery, I told them," Archie said, remembering the discrimination she faced. “But they didn’t listen. They wanted a ‘woman who wasn’t trans’, but didn’t want to say that," she adds.
Archie Singh is now going to be representing India in Miss International Trans 2021 taking place in Colombia this year.
Growing up in a middle-class family in Delhi, Archie always knew she was a woman. “From school days, I knew I was a woman, and I am glad my family supported me when I came out," she tells News18.
At just 17 years old, Archie had come out in public about her identity, and she wanted to flaunt it. “I wanted to be the truest version of me, I didn’t want to pretend to be someone else anymore," she said, and then began her career into modelling.
“Before my modelling career, I was doing social work - I was working to spread awareness in people, about trans realities and trying to break the stigma about us," she said. “Modelling just gave me a platform to do that and more. It became my passion."
As her modelling career began, she started and continued her gender-reassignment surgery to transform fully into a woman, and from then Archie was on a rise: She won Miss Trans India, she became the brand ambassador for a brand, started becoming the show stopper for multiple fashion shows, but the discrimination still persisted in bits.
“I never got rejected because of my skill or my looks. It was because I was trans," said Archie. Using the international competition as a platform, Archie hopes it will lessen the stigma around trans people in India.
“Gender should never be a barrier. For any potential human, their humanity should come first as an identity. Not their sexuality, or choice of work," she said.
In India, where stigma around transpeople has been persistent for generations, this may be a tough battle. Transpeople are the subject of mockery in culture, and segregated from society to the point where they are ostracized and reduced to limited occupations, forming their own communities to perform at weddings or begging at traffic signals.
“Indians lack awareness, and I’m open to conversation. I’m willing to educate them," she said. “It shouldn’t be a stigma in this day and age."
Besides winning the competition, Archie also aims to use her space to change this mindset of Indians. “I want people to see me as someone representing India, and not just my community."