Hyderabad: "Stage mein programme karne ka mauka mila, bahut acchha laga (I got an opportunity to perform on the stage. I am very happy.)," says Jasmine, a transgender from Jeedimetla in Hyderabad. She adds that they got delicious food and gifts, too. But beyond everything, their existence was recognized.

On 22 December, around 200 transgenders from across the city gathered at Ramanthapur in Hyderabad to celebrate Christmas. They sang, danced, and shared the joy of the festival at an event, 'Montfort Rainbows Christmas Celebrations' organised by an NGO Montfort Social Institute.

"Christmas is a festival for the most vulnerable, for those cut off by society. It is the festival of the last individual, those considered least by society. The birth of Christ was first announced not to the great personalities of the day, but to the shepherds who lived on the margins," said Brother Varghese Theckanath, the director of Montfort Social Institute (MSI), an NGO working closely with the vulnerable communities in the society.

Addressing the members of the community and human rights activists from the city, he said, "It is our honour to welcome our transgender brothers and sisters who have for so long been pushed to the margins to this celebration meant for them. Through this, we remember that Christmas and the love and hope it brings is for everyone."

MSI had organized a similar event in 2019 also.

"When I first heard about it in 2019, I was shocked. It was the first faith organization in the city that started talking loudly about the LGBTQ community," said Mukunda Mala, a social worker and a mother of a transgender. Since then, Mala has been working with MSI and the government in bettering the lives of transgenders. She recalls how in 2017, the Pope had appealed to the churches to apologize to the transgenders for ignoring them for all these years. She then wondered when this was going to happen in India. And it happened in 2019.

MSI's initiatives

During the pandemic, MSI arranged groceries, vaccination drives, and alternate livelihood opportunities. "Most transgenders were making a living as sex workers or beggars. But COVID-19 brought their lives to a halt. We arranged for grants or loans for them to start alternate means of livelihood like selling vegetables or pickle making," says Brother Varghese.

Also, the NGO has collaborated with the state women and child welfare department to organize a skill development training programme for the members of the community.

During the pandemic, many transgenders were unable to get vaccinated because they didn't have Aadhar cards. But once the Central government issued the order to vaccinate everyone even without documents, MSI swung into action and vaccinated all members of the transgender community in Medchal, Rangareddy, and Hyderabad.

"I hope this message goes around to other organizations and they give transgenders a chance to live with dignity and respect," added Mala.

Nimisha S Pradeep

Hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, Nimisha completed her MA in Communication (with a specialization in Print and New Media) from the University of Hyderabad. She has interned with The Hindu Metroplus, Chennai and The Sentinel, Assam. She was a fellow of the NFI Fellowship for Independent Journalists in 2021. In 2015, she attended the Jenesys Student Exchange Programme in Japan. She firmly believes in the power of words and the impact it can make on society. She looks forward to using her career in journalism to voice the issues of minorities. Her interest areas include gender, women and society. She pursues travel, photography, and music in her leisure time.

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