India is often credited for being a land that celebrates diversity – where people of various faiths, traditions, languages and colour coexist, despite the differences. However, there continues to be deep-rooted stigma and discrimination when it comes to sexual minorities, particularly the LGBT community.
It is to change this narrative that Anita Kamaraj, Charu Roopha Srikanth and Sringa Syam, have kickstarted a campaign in the form of a photo series, titled Embracing Diversity. The first set of the series has the spotlight on two transgender women, Ragasiya and Bharaa.
“We are three working women who gave up lucrative jobs to pursue our passion in the creative field. When we decided to collaborate, we wanted to start with something that’s not commercial, different and worth spending our skills and effort on.
That’s when we zeroed in on this campaign through which we aim to do our bit to those who live on society’s fringes for no fault of theirs,” says Charu, founder and designer of Colors & Mirrors, an apparel label.
“While in the West, transgender persons are being represented be it in pop culture or through powerful celebrity voices, we have a long way to go. Most of our movies and media portrays them as sex workers and as people who barge into trains demanding money. That’s the only notion we have. We need to change the image we’ve been conditioned to believe about the community.
We should portray them as regular working men and women, like any of us. Even if it means being portrayed as a sex worker, there needs to be a certain dignity in the way it’s presented,” adds Sringa Syam, a makeup artist. Their search for the models ended with Bharaa, an engineering student, and soon to be gold medalist.
She also trains in Bharatanatyam and performs regularly at various shows. Meanwhile, Ragasiya, is a professional model, who was also the second runner-up at the Miss Trans-queen India Pageant 2017. Shooting these women has been a learning experience, says Anita, a photographer.
“These women are a sight for sore eyes. The positivity, charm and honesty they exude is so endearing. Although we had apprehensions of shooting in public initially, as we went ahead with the shoot, it was such a beautiful session.
Fighting to be recognized a woman in a world where women are already battling to make a place for themselves, is raw unparalleled strength. These are the kind of people we need as role models and not airbrushed versions of porcelain dolls,” adds Anita.