Queer eye: There’s a new trans news magazine in Madurai
Priya Babu, 50, is a transwoman, activist, counsellor, and now, magazine editor. Six years ago, she and three fellow activists started a library called Transgender Resource Centre in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. In 2017, it was registered as a non-profit. It’s a repository of newspaper clippings, documentaries, short films and documents on government policies, most relating to the trans community.
On November 1, the group also launched an online magazine called Trans News. “In society, people heckle, tease and bully us,” says Babu. “I dropped out of school after Class 12.” As a teen, Babu read Vadamalli by Tamil author Su. Samuthiram, about a trans woman who becomes an activist, and decided to make that her life’s purpose too.
The library was a first step. Babu also trained as a counsellor and TRC opened its doors to trans students who needed to talk. The group holds film festivals and seminars at schools, to spread awareness. And now there’s the magazine.
“The most special attribute of Trans News,” Babu says, “is that the models for all the photographs used with the stories are transgender people. Transgender models rarely get a chance. We want to change that too.” So far, 13 transwomen and two transmen have been featured in the fortnightly, which is published in Tamil and English.
Babu is its editor, heading a team of five reporters and five interns. Funds to build the website and outsource some of the design came from the CSR or corporate social responsibility budget of the oil seal manufacturing company Hi-Tech Arai, a long-time ally.
Subscription to Trans News is free. Articles range from updates on the news to tips on fashion, beauty, health and home decor. The articles are written by transgender people, and focus on issues and events that matter to the community. There are reports on the Bhujaria Festival of the transgender community in Madhya Pradesh, on Padmini Prakash, India’s first transgender newsreader, and Jeeva Rengaraj, the trans entrepreneur, as well as tips to reduce hair fall.
“I write and translate articles from Tamil to English for the magazine,” says Mahalakshmi Raghavan, 27, a PhD student who is on the staff. “When we get positive response from our readers it boosts us to write more.”
The magazine has a Shop section that acts as a platform for products made by members of the transgender community — from saris to cotton masks. A Jobs section publishes work opportunities and allows transgender readers to upload resumes and get in touch with employers through the website.
“I have uploaded my resume to the Jobs section,” says Rajeshwari, 28. “I identify as a trans man and I’m trying to save up for surgery. When I came out, my family disowned me. I’m living alone and currently unemployed. I’m hopeful that this portal will help me.”
That is the aim. Which is why there are plans to expand, with Trans News editions in Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Kannada “and, if we can get enough financial support, print too,” Babu says.
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