The Indian Society by and large condemns homosexuality, trans-identities and any form of expression that challenges the hetero-normative patriarchal structures. At the same time India is going through an interesting phase where socio-cultural and sexual stereotypes are being questioned.
On 2nd July 2009, in a historic statement, the Delhi High Court held that the Section 377 (drafted in 1860 during the British Rule) of the Indian Penal Code, that made consensual sex between two adult men a criminal offence, was unconstitutional as it violated the right to privacy and the right to live with dignity, that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution. However, violence and discrimination are still an integral part of the lives of those with ‘deviant sexuality’.
The graphic narratives and illustration reportage works capture the tales of love, violence and social acceptance of such individuals in the times of change. In the milieu of turmoil and shifting identities, the characters conform to the norms of the society yet at certain junctures ridicule and subvert them. At the same time they celebrate their sexuality and look forward to a better future, to a society where all are different and all are equal.
Rai worked at an electronic showroom in one of the busiest streets of Kolkata. Rai did not conform to established notions of masculinity and preferred keeping long hair as opposed to her other male colleagues. Therefore, she became an easy target at her office, where she was regularly harassed, ridiculed by everyone – right from the gatekeeper to the manager. In order to teach her a lesson, her colleagues asked her to either cut her hair or quit the job.
Her story was captured in Diaries of Transformation, a docu-feature on the lives of seven individuals with trans-identites in and around Kolkata, which I made in 2009. SWAMPED – a 4 page graphic narrative is an imaginary take on the real life experience of Rai.
II. Monaz Diary
About ‘Monaz Diary’
Manish Nayak likes to call herself Monaz as she feels the name completes her. Monaz lives in Ahmedabad and works at the Civil Hospital as a senior ‘male’ nurse. Married at the age of 11, Monaz’s daughter was born when she was only 18. She calls herself a transgender (Male to Female) and has made up her mind, not to succumb to the pressure of the society anymore.
For her relatives and family members who would never understand the concept of being transgender and probably murder him if he comes out to them as a homosexual man, Monaz is an incarnation of Mother Goddess, Bahuchara-ji*. In the month of Chaitra – Monaz believes that the Goddess enters her body, transforming her completely. At this celebrated time of the year, Monaz’s daughter refers to her father as Mata-ji (Mother Goddess).
Bahuchara Mata or Bahucharaji is a popular deity or ‘Devi’ of Hindus. She is particularly worshipped by the hijra and transgender community in India. At the Mehsana district of Northern Gujarat, there is a temple of Bahuchar Mata. The Goddess armed with weapons sits on a rooster – because of which she is also popularly known as the Murga Mata (Rooster Goddess).
Kothis are feminine men or boys who take a feminine role in same sex relationships with men, often with a desire to be the penetrated member in sexual intercourse. The word kothi is common across India, similar to the Kathoey of Thailand. Kothis are different from hijras as they do not live in the kind of intentional communities that hijras usually live in. Additionally, hijra may be classified as a branch of the kothi family, differentiated by their castration and initiation rites.
Anirban Ghosh is an artist and filmmaker currently based in Kolkata. A graduate in Mass Communication and Videography from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata Anirban specialized in Animation Film Design from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. He has worked under various media houses in the capacity of an illustrator, graphic designer, storyboard artist, cartoonist and journalist.
Storytelling fascinates Anirban, as he uses illustration reportage, sequential art, short films and documentaries to narrate tales on gender, sexuality, human rights and other tales of growing up and the world around him.
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