While Australian male model Andrej Pejic has struck million-dollar deals shooting for women’s clothing, Delhi’s own transgender models, as stunning as they look, are denied a fair chance thanks to homophobia.
The transgender models back home, who are anatomically male but feel, behave and dress up like a woman, claim they are exploited by unscrupulous coordinators. Saloni (born Rahul Monga), with her porcelain skin, dimpled cheeks, and 36-24-26 frame, can give a complex to any woman. But, when the 21-year-old law student approached a coordinator with her portfolio and admitted that she was biologically, a man, he demanded a hefty fee for her ‘unusual gender’. "After keeping me waiting for months, he pushed me out of his office saying ‘tum to na aurat ho na mard ho, tumko kaun kaam dega." (you are niether man nor woman, who will give you work)
Chahat (born Danish Khan), 23, the winner of Queer Queen 2010 (a beauty competition organised by Space Foundation, a gay rights NGO), could also never get a break due to discrimination. "I have always wanted to model and after winning the competition, my confidence shot up. Coordinators were very impressed by my pictures, but when they got to know about my gender, they asked me if I could please men, and shooed me away," she says.
Her friend Kashish auditioned for a TV serial but was beaten up by her guru for it, as she belonged to a eunuch group. "I was beaten up, my pictures were burned, and my hair was shaved. I was warned that I will be killed if I try to break the norms of the dera," she says.
Modelling agencies say it’s not easy to convince clients. "Not many would be convinced about using transgender models for a shoot," says Pranav Awasthi of Glitz Modeling. Others feel it’s time the industry got rid of prejudice. "A person’s gender is of no concern to a designer. If a transgender blends into my concept, I will work with her," says designer Rina Dhaka. Ad guru Alyque Padamsee says, "Transgender models must write to the Advertising Standard Council of India against discrimination."
Who is Andrej Pejic?
Serbian-Australian male model Andrej Pejic got the world talking for hitting the runway dressed as a bride for Jean-Paul Gaultier’s show in Paris last year. He made it to FHM’s ‘sexiest women’ list and also featured on the cover of Dossier Journal and the New York magazine.
Loopholes in the law?
Unless the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) bill gets implemented, there’s no way to curb such discrimination by private bodies. However, lawyers believe that discriminating on the basis of gender is flouting Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution and the Delhi High Court’s 2009 ruling that decriminalised article 377 of the IPC, and assured equal rights to the LGBT community.
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