India’s newest talk show has it’s own Oprah Winfrey-esque star, and she’s transgendered! Rose, formerly known as Ramesh Venkatesan will host the show that will be viewed by up to 64 million people. While her mother refuses to see her in a sari – the traditional dress of Indian women – Rose will share her story, and views on sex, relationships and gender with Indians living in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Much like a few years ago in the US, transgender people in India are seen as immoral and evil, and find it difficult to obtain conventional jobs. This is true, even though the Hijra (a male or intersexed person who refer to themselves as female and usually dress as a woman) have been a part of Indian culture for many centuries. Rose recounts stories of her family sunning her, and losing her job when she first started dressing as a woman.
I see this as an important step for the transgender community in India. The first step to acceptance is for more people to be exposed to transgendered who represent a positive role model. This gives people a language they can use to talk about gender identity beyond using words like ‘weird’, ‘gay’, and ‘perverse’. They can come to see us as people, and though we are different, we are also the same.
I’m hopeful that Rose will become an accepted and widely watched program in India, and reinvigorate the tolerance and gender diversity that was so widespread before the British occupation.
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