Beauty Queens – And what they could mean

“Beauty has so many flavors and shades” –Queen Latifah
Nitasha Biswas, Miss Transqueen India, with Loiloi, the First Runner-Up, Ragasiya, the Second Runner-up, and Laeticia Raveena, Miss Transexual Australia International 2017. Picture courtesy: Instagram/transartforall

When Kolkata’s Nitasha Biswas was crowned India’s First Miss Trans Queen on August 30th, 2017, at Gurgaon, the fifteen other beauty queens were also declared “winners”, by the pageant, as a recognition of their identity. The glamour and popularity of the event, the supportive crowd, and the safe space and empowerment provided to the trans-women who participated in Miss Trans Queen India, led to the creation of more of these Transgender Beauty Pageants, notably Queen of Dhwayah held at Kochi. These pageants often become a space where trans-women (sadly, there has not yet been a counterpart of these pageants for trans-men in our country) gain the visibility they require to empower themselves and become part of a community.

Picture courtesy: Aghil Menon/WtzupCity Kochi

Since their inception, beauty Pageants in general had garnered attention and has been followed with great interest by the public eye. The public has always had a bittersweet relationship  with the idea of them; while conventional pageants like Miss World and Miss Universe are popular with an established fan-following, they have also been looked down upon for the objectification of female bodies, their shallow, narrow ideals of outward beauty.

However, it is interesting to note that pageants like Miss Transqueen India and Queen of Dhwayah are created to break conventional standards of bodies and gender constraints and beauty, rather than to follow them. They celebrate the beauty of the transgender identity, the beauty of the bodies these women have been condemned and marginalized for, creating an alternative to what conventional beauty pageants often do. Under the outward prettiness of the event lie the stories of strength and courage through which these women have come.

Obviously, these pageants for trans-women work very closely with the fashion, film, media and beauty industries. The news reports concerning the pageants include an interesting list of film personalities , politicians, stylists, models and make-up artists among the audience and behind the stage. The exposure provided by these pageants then, also act as another call to these industries to be more inclusive and tap into the potential of trans-women as well. India’s fashion industry has slowly been opening doors for the transgender community.

Earlier this year, the Kathmandu-born model Anjali Lama became the first trans-woman to walk the ramp at the Lakme Fashion Week at Mumbai, the event declaring itself “tag-free.”

Despite the success of the events, it is yet to be seen whether it is merely a symbolic success, or if it does translate to real-life, practical empowerment. It is up to the various industries involved in the events to take it upon themselves to accept these beauty queens and provide them with ample platform to take their career forward. In that sense, these events question the idea of beauty, of womanhood, of gender, and what fashion must come to mean.  These questions are to be answered by the industry, the society, by each and every one of us. Perhaps the answers will not come to us immediately, but questions have been asked, and that is a good step forward.

Veronica Campabell also became India’s first plus-size transgender model this year. The organization of beauty pageants for trans-women is another heartening step in this direction.

More and more of these pageants will surely encourage more trans-women to come forward and participate, to take the opportunity. But what of those transgender people who do not have the access to these platforms?  What of trans-men, who have yet to find firm footing in any industry in our society?

Alternatively, what if these steps towards inclusion were taken within other industries as well? Aside from beauty pageants, what if there were science exhibitions, art galleries, literary festivals, manufacturing units, political discussions, scholarly conferences and so on, including transgender people, to create an awareness of who they are and what they can do.

Would these platforms be similarly accepted, praised, popularized and understood? Would major companies step forward to offer support? Would it create relevant exposure, change at least a few influential minds? The one way to find out is to create these platforms, promote them, and provide opportunities to the transgender people of our country and around the world to express themselves not just terms of their gender, but also in terms of who they are, as individuals.

Written by: Uma Madhu.

My first job where I could be myself: Vino

“PeriFerry mattrum kulumathirku vanakkam. Nan Vino, Thiruppur mavatam aruge vasikkiren. Nan oru intersex(idayalingam). Nan yaarendra adayalam theriyaamale samukathin saadaluku bayanthu migavum mana aluthathode vaazhndhuvanthen. Yerkanave nan velai seitha idangalil ellam etho oru vetru inathavar polave paavithanar. Athanal angirunthu vilaki mana aluthathode veetil irunthen.

Miguntha mana alutham PeriFerry patri therinthu athan moolam enathu pratchanaigalai pagirnthen. Kuluvil ullavar anaivarum ennai thangal kudumpathinarpola paavithanar. Pathu ulagam kidaithathupola unarnthen avarkalathu perum udhaviyal nallathoru companyil ipothu velai seikiren. Maatham 10,000 sambadhikiren. Enathu MDyum ennai thanathu sagotharan polave paarkirar. Mudinthu ponadhaai enniya en vaazhkayil oli yetria perumai PeriFerryai saarum. Samukathaal niraagarikkapattu nirgathayaai nirkum inum pala sagothara sagothirikal vaazhkayai olimayamaakuvargal endru perum nambikai ullathu. PeriFerryin Intha sevaiayil oru tholanaga pinthodarvathil mikka magilchi. Adutha thalaimurayai adaikaakum anna PeriFerry ku vaazhthukkal.


Endrum nandriyodu,
Ungal Nanban”

(English translation)

“Regards to PeriFerry and team,

I am Vino, I live near Thirupur district. I am an intersex person. I have been under immense pressure trying to analyse myself while at the same time afraid of facing abuse by the society. I was treated as a different creature in my previous work places. Hence, I quit my work and stayed at home. At this point of time, I fell into severe depression, I literally lost all hope. I then came to know about this organization called PeriFerry, I reached out to them and shared my story. Every individual in the team treated me like their own. It felt like I’ve entered a new world altogether. With their help, I was placed in a good company. I am earning enough per month, my manager and my entire team now treat me like a family. The pride of lighting my life which I thought was over, purely belongs to PeriFerry.

I strongly believe that they will brighten the lives of many brother’s and sisters who were rejected by the society and left without any support.

I am extremely happy to be associated with PeriFerry and their service.

Shall meet
Shall achieve

Ever grateful,


Testimonial from one of PeriFerry’s candidates, Vino who is currently working with Indian Superheroes, Coimbatore.



A word that separates like a fence; that splits and cuts, that humiliates; forces a wedge.
They don’t occur, they don’t matter.
We think, in our heads of terms like ‘Neither’.
The Third. The In-between. The out of context.

Words, spaces, laws that separate ‘us’ from ‘them’
And ‘them’ from everything we believe ourselves entitled to.

It means “You cannot sit next to me.”
It means “Stay away from us.”
It means “You could be exploited, cast out, pillaged and wounded; yet…”
A Definitive Yet.
“It would be none of our business.”

It means “You cannot live the way we do”
It means “You cannot want what we want. Or want to be wanted.”
It also means, perhaps, “We are afraid of you!”

This ‘Others’ has grown too large, untamed and unprotected. This has gone on for too long.
Way too long.
We have hurt, immensely.
We have made serious errors, committed some terrible crimes.

Let’s try again.
It’s never too late.

“You are different, but so are we, and that is a perfectly human way to be. ”
“We are not entitled to any space we deny you.”
“You are welcome.”
“Let us join you. ”
“We shall not stand by and watch each other suffer. ”

For the thousands of transgender people around the country.
Let us re-invent
let us re-imagine
and rebuild.
what ‘Others’ could now mean.
‘Others’ in a way that makes sense. That includes, that nurtures; and provides.
That firmly peels away the cleaving layers of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’

They are not others.
They are Us.



Written by Uma Madhu
Intern, PeriFerry

My Life As A Trans Woman – Anannya


When all children of my age were enjoying their childhood, I was dealing with stress and depression. For years, I felt that there was nothing I could do about how different I felt.

I gradually realized my gender dysphoria and how my brain functioned very differently from others of the same sex. In all likelihood, it was biological, caused during fetal formation by little more than a slightly ‘off’ series of hormonal development. My mind is that of a girl’s, but in the body of a boy, and it has been this way for the entirety of my existence, regardless of how I’ve been raised or how my worldly experiences have influenced me.

But I thought that the discrimination towards transgender people was due to lack of education – when a trans person ‘comes out’ at an early age, they face rejection from their own family and will be thrown out of the education system. So I decided to graduate before ‘coming out’ and lived in a closet until I completed my graduation. I went on to pursue education in the field of medicine in order to understand myself better. Amidst all the stress and depression (which was always something pulling me from behind), pain, sexual harassment and bullying – schooling was a difficult phase. Because of which I could only get into a para-medical course, B.Pharm

Meanwhile, I realized that being a transgender person is not a habit you can break off, or a mindset you can force your way out of, or something you can treat with psychotherapy/drugs. It is a genetic construction that will never, ever change.

This was not a choice. This is me allowing myself to be who I am. A simple way to explain what me being a transgender woman means is to say that I identify as a woman, but it’s so much more than that. I don’t just identify as a woman, I am a woman. I have felt this way every day of my life, all the way back to my earliest childhood memories.

After my graduation I felt I should do something in return for my family before ‘coming out’ to them. I didn’t want to have regrets, in case they avoid me later. Thus I worked hard and fulfilled all my family commitments.

I finally came to the understanding that I could no longer continue living the lie I had lived for the last 21 years. I wasn’t being honest to myself or to those around me. I wasn’t happy at all. I tried ending my life five times but all in vain.

Many people who were close to me suggested continuing to live my life the same way – as a man. But after understanding myself, I felt that I had to do something to change the image of trans people in the society.

Many trans people end their lives due to social stigma and poor understanding of gender dysphoria and I felt it’s hard for people to understand all this unless they have been in a similar situation.

So I made the decision to transition and stop pretending to be something/someone I’m not. It was not simply about clothing or a name, but an innate sense of myself and who I am.

I wanted to begin living my life the way I should be living it, as the real me. I also realized how important it was to get educated as that would help me to lead a dignified life. So I pursued my post graduation, M.Pharm in Pharmacology.

After coming out, as expected my parents didn’t accept me but surprisingly, the reaction from this generation was quite understanding and supportive. I felt lucky to be born in this generation.

But this happiness didn’t continue for long. After my PG, I was looking for a job opportunity as a transgender, which is when I realized that all the support that people promised were only in the form of words.

Once I started attending interviews and walk-ins, I was able to clear until the final technical rounds. However once they found out about my gender, their response was “We are so happy with your performance in the interview rounds. However we will discuss with our team and call you back”. I never got a call back. Another organization went one step beyond considering me and stated that they were happy to take me in if I was done with the bottom surgery as a part of their ‘company policy’ to hire transgender people. I was thinking what an aesthetic surgery had to do with my professional career. Even though I promised them that I would get my surgery done when I was financially stable, they kept insisting on it.

Of course, most trans people’s dream will be to get such a surgery done. Being a single transwoman, gender reaffirmation surgery is a complete rebirth procedure which requires extensive post-operative care, involving complications and a lot of expenses. So a trans woman has to be ready to face all that without family support. It’s very sad, however, that society expects surgery to accept someone as a trans woman.

I really feel like I have become a second-class citizen in the eyes of many people. We too are human just like everyone else but are born this way; there is no point in forcing us to undergo procedures in order to accept us as a human being. It clearly shows people’s poor understanding of gender orientation. But this will not stop me.

My intention is to bring some change in the society by setting an example that even a transgender can lead a dignified life, if basic support and education is provided.

And again this is not by choice. This is what I am and I want to be true to myself. I’m going to live it the way I deserve to live it. “Live and let Live”.

*The article has been written by Anannya. Edited for language and brevity by Nanditha.*



“My name is Ajitha and I am a trans-woman . It’s been about three months now since I left home. I have completed Engineering (EEE). After graduating, I tried to find employment in various places but couldn’t find anything that was comfortable for me. Later, a friend told me about a website called “PeriFerry” and asked me to upload my details on the website and that I would be called in for interviews if I do so. So I uploaded all my details on the website and was contacted by Neelam. Soon I got a job offer from Kolapasi. I feel quite comfortable with the work environment at Kolapasi. The managers and other colleagues make me feel at ease and teach me things. They treat me normally and I don’t have any problem here.
To all the transgenders out there who are forced to do other work, I ask them to seek a better standard of living. Through this interview, I would request them to look out for better employment opportunities.”

-Ajitha is incharge of Lalchand Kulfi section at Kolapasi Restaurant.


Interview, photo by: Steevez Rodriguez

Designed by: Vigneshwaran

Edited for brevity by: Nanditha Ravindar




Sensitisation Program at Novotel, Chennai

A sensitisation program was conducted at Novotel, Siruseri on 20th June, 2017. The program was organized by PeriFerry, with Prof. Shankar Ganesh and Swetha as the guest speakers.

Prof. Shankar Ganesh is a faculty in the Department of Business Administration at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT). As someone who identifies himself as asexual and has worked with different communities in the space of gender and sexual orientation, he was ideal for this program. He spoke about diverse workplaces and ensured that he always held the audience’s attention with his interactive session.

Swetha Sudhakar, the other speaker for the day, is from Born2win – a transgender led organisation working towards empowerment of the community through education and employment. As a transgender herself, she shared her life experiences with the crowd and also deliberated the positive changes that employment opportunities would have on the community.

The program is the first in a series of workshops that PeriFerry intends to conduct at various workplaces, aimed at creating awareness about the benefits of having a dynamic and diverse working environment. PeriFerry aims at sensitising companies in order to enable them to become more forthcoming in hiring talent from the transgender community apart from understanding their struggles and hardships.

“As an organization, for us diversity and inclusion is also part of our success. It is key for our growth in the hotel. We’ve come a long way with women at Accor generation by employing and increasing our female ratios within hotels. While there’re still challenges, we are in the right direction. Next step towards this is towards gender diversity, towards employing transgender people at hotels. We’ve taken a small step towards this in looking at employing a couple of people at the hotel.
Thanks to PeriFerry who’s come onboard for us in assisting in bringing those people into the hotels. We’ve looked at a couple of people to employ at the property. Today we had a great session in sensitising our team and making them understand how important it is and what value it has as a human being, as a transgender and making them sensitised in this environment to allow them to come and work as normal human beings to work with us. I think it’s a great effort for us to make this happen. We are looking forward certainly to making this a success and bring about employment within diversity inclusions.”

-Mr. Ajay Sampige – General Manager, Novotel Chennai SIPCOT

In case you’re interested in conducting such workshops in your workplace, do reach out to us either on Facebook ( or drop an email to us at

Photos: Steevez Rodriguez
Written by: Nanditha Ravindar

One Chance: Raghavi

PeriFerry -  One Chance: Raghavi
Raghavi employed at Novotel

“My name is Raghavi and I’m from Hosur, Krishnagiri district. I have studied up to twelfth standard. I realized that I was a transgender when I was in my 8th or 9th standard. By the time I was in the 12th grade, I wanted to drape a saree like other girls and get the surgery done. I went through the surgery in 2013 and was with other transgenders for four years. Post that, I came to Chennai.

I don’t like to be involved in begging or sex work. I wanted to go for a job and lead a dignified life without being dependent on others.

I am now employed in the housekeeping department at the Novotel Hotel, Siruseri, OMR. I am very happy that they have employed a transgender (viz., me) for this job and I’m sure they would treat us right when we go to work there. If they can be as inclusive as possible, it’d just make us more happy. I am glad that I can now go for a job and lead a dignified life. If everyone else can see us as their equals and not discriminate against us, things would be a lot better. I thank Novotel.

A request to other transgenders: there are a lot of job opportunities for us here, many don’t discriminate us the way they used to earlier. They respect us. Try as much as possible to go for socially exposed jobs. Don’t just try but make sure you go for one. Now I’m employed. PeriFerry has helped a few more as well in finding jobs.”

-Raghavi is currently employed in Housekeeping department, Novotel, OMR.

Interview by: Steevez Rodriguez
Edited for brevity by: Nanditha Ravindar

Trans-inclusive Workplace

Transgender people have been historically marginalised and discriminated against, many from a very early age, because of not conforming to society’s gender norms. This has negatively impacted access to education and employment. Proactively recruiting transgender people in the workplace is one of the many initiatives needed to set right this systemic wrong.

Transgender inclusion should not be seen as just another attempt by businesses to portray themselves as diverse, or another box that they need to tick off on the master checklist of social causes that are good for brand image.

What we need is a genuine recognition that an inclusive workplace is good for people and good for business. We need to send out a message to existing staff and management that, by bringing transgender inclusion into your hiring, you are also creating a safe space for existing employees who are transgender, but not yet out. Such employees should not fear that coming out and/or transitioning while in the workplace will adversely impact their jobs, as their company’s staff orientations and anti-discrimination policies will cover sexuality, gender identity and expression too.

Ultimately, such inclusive measures will help to create environments in which employees can bring their whole selves to work. As hundreds of studies around the world have demonstrated, this will help in attracting and retaining talent, and boosting creativity and productivity: all ultimately good for business.

I appreciate PeriFerry’s initiative in proactively reaching out both to the transgender communities and potential employers to identify placement opportunities and create welcoming HR policies.
l-ramakrishnan-saathiiAuthor: Dr. L. Ramakrishnan, Vice President, SAATHII.