A world famous Indian transgender activist was asked to leave a dinner held for speakers of TEDxMumbai at the Bombay Gymkahana, allegedly because of her sexuality.
Prominent entrepreneurs, social activists, businessmen, scientists, musicians and writers were among the speakers dining at the
exclusive members’ only club in Azad Maidan last Friday, ahead of the first-ever TEDxMumbai conference, which started in the city
yesterday. This is a local extension of the prestigious annual TED conference, which is held in California. The likes of Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Gordon Brown have, in the past, spoken at this event, with the objective of sharing ideas among world thinkers. The Mumbai event is being held as a result of the master company creating TEDx, which allows people to hold conferences in their own cities TED-style.
Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, popularly known as Lakshmi, (she was a participant on Sach Ka Saamna, a TV show on Star Plus) was one of the speakers.
Apart from organising India’s first transgender beauty contest, she is the first transgender to represent the Asia Pacific region in the UN General Assembly President’s office. She is also a member Astitva, an organisation for the development of sexual minorities in India.
Parmesh Shahani, an organiser of the conference, says that in the middle of the dinner, a senior official of the Bombay Gymkhana burst into the room and said that Laxmi had to leave. “It was evident that he said so because she was a transgender.” Following this, the dinner came to a standstill and everyone present left the venue, many mid-way through their meal. “I am heartbroken to watch such an incident take place before my eyes. She is one of the speakers we were most proud of and excited about. The idea of this event was to showcase India’s ideas to the world, and it is such an embarrassing thing for this to happen on its eve.”
Lakshmi told HT Café that she didn’t overhear what was said, but an organiser came up to her in tears and told her that he would lose his job if she did not leave. “Internationally, I am treated with such dignity. I am a respected person in society and I have never faced such discrimination in my life. When this club was run by the British, they had a notice outside that read ‘Indians and dogs not allowed.’ They should put up a notice now saying ‘Hjiras and transgenders not allowed,’ if this is how they feel. The transgenders are the oldest ethnic groups in India and what they have done is completely illegal,” says Lakshmi, who plans to file a police complaint soon. Daniel Carroll, one of the speakers, says: “It’s outrageous! Can you imagine TED was expelled from Bombay Gymkhana?” Despite several attempts, no one from Bombay Gymkahana was available for comment.