‘Are we not citizens of India too?’ | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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‘Are we not citizens of India too?’

mumbai Updated: Apr 07, 2010 01:22 IST
Zara Murao

She’s a widely travelled activist and entrepreneur who has spoken at the UN, represented Asia-Pacific — and, on Friday, was asked to leave Bombay Gymkhana because she is a transsexual. In conversation with Laxmi Tripathi…

“I remember walking down the stairs towards the exit of the club… I remember thinking that it felt as if we had moved back to British times, when the club used to have a sign outside that said ‘No dogs and no Indians allowed’.”

As transgender activist Laxmi Tripathi recounts Friday night, when she was asked by Bombay Gymkhana to leave in the middle of a pre-event dinner, there’s a sense of disbelief. And outrage.

“I was stunned,” says the 31-year-old entrepreneur and activist. “I have represented Asia-Pacific at the United Nations, and all the dignitaries treated me with respect. I have travelled, even across India… stayed in five-star hotels. And here, in my own town, I have been humiliated.”

Terming it a rape of her dignity, Laxmi says she will approach the state human rights commission and the police on Wednesday.

“Of course right of admission [to a private club] is a personal right,” she says. “But as an Indian, I expect equality. I expect to not be stigmatized on the basis of my sexuality.”

Seated in a red felt chair at a trendy café — run by the V Care group, of which she is a director — Laxmi is draped in an immaculately starched blue cotton sari with the elaborate make-up that has become her signature style.

“I will never forget this,” she says, looking down at her long nails, painted black and decorated with silver stars. “This is now my battle. If this can happen with Laxmi, imagine the hell the rest of my community goes through every moment, every day of their lives. Are hijras, transgenders not citizens of India?”

Asked if she is looking for an apology, Laxmi points out that, despite the media buzz, the club remains unapologetic. “An apology won’t restore my dignity,” she adds. “They must promise not to condemn any more people because of their sexuality. It’s un-Indian.”