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From Begging to Stardom, Kolkata's Transgender Community Has Come a Long Way

From begging and dancing at gunpoint to being film stars, the transgender community commonly known as LGBT has come a long way to make their own space in the society.

Sujit Nath | News18

Updated:December 15, 2017, 10:48 AM IST
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From Begging to Stardom, Kolkata's Transgender Community Has Come a Long Way
(From Left) Tista Das, Atri Kar, Ranjita Sinha and Jiya Das.
Kolkata: The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on Thursday decided to amend the definition of the word transgender in keeping with the recommendation of the standing committee on the transgender persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016.

From begging and dancing at gunpoint to being film stars, the transgender community commonly known as LGBT has come a long way to make their own space in the society.

News18 brings you inspiring stories of Bengal’s transgender – who are stars in their own world.

I Was Asked to Dance at Gunpoint: Jiya Das, Trainee Nurse

When Jishu (now Jiya Das) was born on May 23, 1992, his father Prasenjit Das (name changed) was overjoyed about having a male child. Jishu’s mother initially didn’t give much thought to her son playing with toys meant for girls and jewellery, the inclination continued even after the child started going to school.

Soon, Jishu started behaving like a girl child. The concerned parents scolded and even beat the child for his ‘odd’ behaviour.

Finally, in his late teens, Jishu told his parents that he felt trapped in a male body. Following humiliation and rebuke from his parents, Jishu left home and completed his graduation from Gaur Banga University in Malda.

“I hardly had any money to feed myself. I left Bihar and began performing at wedding ceremonies as a ‘Shagun Dancer’. It was horrific. People used to molest me and once they asked me to keep dancing at gunpoint. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I quit,” says Jiya.

Other students in her college used to make fun of her and after she quit dancing, the lack of money forced her to sleep hungry at night. “I used to cry and ask God why this was happening to me. One day, I decided to start a self-help group and brought others like me together. During one of the events that we had organised, a doctor from Panskura in Midnapore district offered me the job as a nurse. Now, I lead a respectable life,” she said.

I Don’t Want to Cry About My Past: Ranjita Sinha, Social Activist

Ranjita has spent a decade fighting for LGBT rights and is now a prominent face in Bengal’s social groups. She currently runs a community-based organisation, ‘Bandhan’, which works towards creating awareness about HIV, sensitizing people towards the disease and working with various stakeholders to create acceptance among people.

Recently, the state government appointed her as a key member of the newly formed Transgender Development Board.

“I don’t want to cry about my past. I pray to god that no one should have to face the humiliation that I have. From being called names to being ostracised by society, I have faced it all. Those days, though, only acted as a morale boost for me. I have worked extensively for LGBT people in India and now the state government has appointed me as a member of the West Bengal Transgender Development Board,” she said.

Stressing the need for a Transgender Bill, Ranjita said, “The bill will empower us to achieve our dreams. There needs to be a proper census of people from the transgender community.”

People Called Me Half-Lady: Atri Kar, Primary School Teacher

The 27-year old was the first person in India to fight for the ‘others’ option (apart from Male and Female) on application forms while applying for jobs or appearing for exams. She is also the first transgender person to appear for the Civil Service examination.

“Since the day I was born to the day I became a primary school teacher, it was a scary journey. Not a single day passed without struggle and humiliation,” says Atri, a teacher at Ramnagar Primary School in Hooghly district.

Unlike Jiya, Atri’s parents ignored her when she confronted them about her sexuality. “People used to call me half-lady. One day, I decided to leave my house and graduated from Calcutta University, while staying in a PG. I wanted an administrative job but it couldn’t happen because we were not acceptable to the society. I then decided to become a teacher and I am very happy with my decision,” she says.

I Used To Love Dressing Like a Girl in School: Tista Das, Actor and Theatre Personality

Tista was born on May 9, 1978, and is a well-known Bengali transsexual actor. She’s acted in Hindi and Bengali movies as the female lead.

Born as Sushanto Das, Tista was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Later, she underwent sex reassignment surgery and became a woman.

“I was born a boy but always felt like a girl and only used to play with them in school. I loved to dress like a girl. I soon started searching for a way to free myself from my anatomical cage. The sex reassignment surgery was a dream come true for me,” she said.

While she’s been part of many films, Tista played a starring role in Sohini Dasgupta's documentary - I Couldn't Be Your Son, Mom and Subrata Dutta’s short film ‘The Third Gender?’, which was screened at the Bulgaria film festival in 2006.

In 2012, she founded Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) Solutions, a community-led and self-funded initiative that provides SRS-related information, counselling and referral services to transgender people in Kolkata.

“It was a traumatic journey but I took every moment as a challenge and today, I have no regrets,” she said.

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| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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