India Gives Voice to Trans Community
By Iyana Jones
The transgender community voice, often overlooked and furthermore bashed by societies all over the world, is seeking a way to be heard in one of the most intolerant countries in the world, India. The Kitab, a nonprofit initiative in India, is aiming to give that lost voice a platform through their first transgender photobook festival called SANDESH. SANDESH is the first festival openly advocating for the transgender community on Indian ground. Through several photobooks depicting the transgender community all over the world, it strives to portray transgender as humans first, just like them.
India’s reputation for intolerance of the LGBTQ+ spectrum has created an environment where transphobia is prevalent without ever having any interaction with someone who identifies as transgender. In 1860, homosexual intercourse was ruled “unnatural”. Even in 1949 when the Indian Constitution declared discrimination against race, caste, sex, or place of birth was illegal, homosexuality is still regarded as a crime. As of July 10th, the Supreme Court of India began hearing a challenge lifting the ban on gay sex. Only two years ago were people who identified as transgendered allowed to vote in a category for “others”. Through this festival, it hopes to teach people that regardless of sexuality that everyone is human and should be celebrated as such.
For a country whose political stance on the subject is so oppressive, having a festival like this is a risk – but it’s one worth taking. India’s activism community is fighting hard to create a space for the people featured in these photographs to feel accepted in their own country. SANDESH is another step in the right direction.