When the Supreme Court’s verdict on Sec 377 that says “homosexuality is a crime in the country” was delivered on December 11, several groups and organisations across the country came out in streets and protested against the ruling. However, the transgender community in Manipur held a different form of protest- a beauty pageant.
In defiance of the ruling, the All Manipur Nupi-Manbi Association (AMaNA) in association with Solidarity and Action Against the HIV infection in India (SAATHI), organised the Northeast Transgender Queen Contest called “Solidarity Event” at Bheigyachandra Open Air Theatre( BOAT), Imphal on Dec 13. The event was also supported by Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MACS), American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and Alliance India. Thirty three transgender from the seven states of “Northeast India” participated in the contest, most of them being from Manipur. This was not the first of its kind event. Every year the state holds “Miss Transgender Manipur”.
Unlike previous years, this time the event not only called for a legal recognition of LGBTs in the country but it strongly opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling and asked for immediate withdrawal. Just before the contest they held a candle vigil singing “We shall overcome” and contestants held banners against Sec 377. AMaNA secretary, Santa Khurai told the media: “It’s a sad thing that the Supreme Court came out with such a ruling when the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex; the LGBTs in short are gaining strength in their struggle.”
Santa also pointed out that the very community (transgender) which has always been discriminated now owns a decent part in the socio-economic occupations in the state. At least 50 percent of the beauty parlours in Imphal are run by transgender and one of the most important theatre forms in Manipur, Shumang Leela, has transgender for female roles. While the recognition and socio-economic condition of the transgender or even cross-dressers in Manipur is getting better and better, there is also a complete absence of gays, bisexuals and lesbian from the larger picture. Even popular culture (film, music and theater) have only dealt with transgender as serious agendas and ignored the other hues.
The event saw an extravagant contest as usual. It showcased the sophisticated fashion taste and political awareness of the transgender.