When Transgenders Walk the Ramp
Transgender models. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Well a Kochi- based woman fashion s designer had taken this unique step to draw the sexual minority into mainstream life. Meet Sharmila Nair who has launched a latest array of saris named Mazahvil-meaning rainbow in Malayalam.
The nomenclature is significant because worldwide rainbow flags are used to denote transgenders.
In India where the sexual minority/LGBT (Lesbians Gays Bisexual&Transgenders) community is marginalized by society and its members jeered and ridiculed at almost every step Nair’s choice of models is creating a ripple. The two models MayaMenon and Gowri Savitri are novices, who came to her through Queerala an organization dedicated to the welfare of LGBT people in Kerala. She recalls, “I was thinking about how I was going to showcase this collection of handloom saris when I saw a Facebook post about the state government’s new policy to better the lives of transgender…I thought since the government was doing so much for the LGBT people, I should also do something.”
Interestingly Sharmila had two considerations while selecting the models: those who loved wearing saris and who would be comfortable in front of the camera. She further reveals both Maya and Gowri are transgender men, who crave to be women. The duo had sent her their sari-clad photographs; but when she met they wore men’s apparels. “When we dressed them up in our saris for the campaign, they were totally transformed. They looked so gorgeous,” she recalls.
Nair launched her brand name Red Lotus barely seven months ago. Regarding the choice of name, she discloses, “My husband …….lived in Tamil Nadu for a long time. It was from his family that I heard of this Tamil myth that the fibre from the red lotus flower was used to weave clothes for gods and goddesses. So I named my company after the flower. ”
The handloom saris, mainly done in flamboyant colours, are selling like hot cakes, with orders pouring in from both India and overseas. Handiwork of weavers from a small village in Karnataka’s Hubli district, the saris are priced between Rs 1,500 –Rs 2500/-
However, some of her clientele appear disgruntled with her choice of transgender models. They accuse her of using cross-dressers as models to gain publicity. Nevertheless, Nair strongly feels, in India where transgender are shunned and forced make a living by singing and dancing at weddings / child births, begging or prostitution, they ought to be given the choice of a decent life and vocation. Her models, both 29, are college graduates, but they are unemployed because of their sexuality. Sharmila exudes confidence that the assignment has given them exposure and is bound to provide them acceptability so that they can find gainful employment.