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World News

AP PHOTOS: Pageant celebrates transgender life in India


GUWAHATI, India — Anilya Boro may not have won the Miss Trans NE India pageant crown this year, but having her parents there was validation in itself.

“I have to prove to my parents that I can do anything as a girl,” the 22-year-old said. “I didn’t win a title, but I’m very happy that my parents were at the show to support me. Now they’ve accepted my decision to live like a girl and have surgery, but they don’t want me to rush.

Twenty transgender women sashayed onto a stage dressed as ethnic and tribal characters during the beauty pageant, drawing applause from the audience. Competitors hailed from all eight remote northeastern states of India, some of them nestled in the Himalayas, in a relatively undeveloped region known for its stunning natural landscapes.

Wednesday’s event promoted the beauty and uniqueness of the northeast region and community pride to uplift the transgender community, said Ajan Akash Barauah, the organizer.

It wasn’t easy to put on the show without corporate funding. Ajan turned to friends and organizations supporting the transgender cause to fund the competition.

Sexual minorities across India have gained some acceptance, especially in big cities, and transgender people were guaranteed equal rights as a third gender in 2014. But prejudice persists and the community continues to be discriminated against and rejected by their families. They are often deprived of employment, education and health care.

Ajan has lived in India’s capital for 13 years as a fashion designer and moved to her hometown of Guwahati in northeastern Assam state after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.

She had won the title of Trans Queen in 2014, in a competition held in the southern city of Vishakhapatnam, and then decided to help the community in the northeast region.

“The November 30 Miss Trans NE pageant was for men who identified as women only. Next year it will also include transgender men,” Ajan said.

Anilya stays the course, dreaming of one day winning the Miss Universe title. Her mother, Aikon Boro, said that Anilya had only worn girl’s clothes since she was 6 or 7 years old, feeling the most comfortable in them.

“Everyone in the family tried to change her ways and her behavior, but she didn’t listen. Now the family members have accepted her as a transgender person,” she said.

The first prize for Miss Trans NE went to Lucey Ham from Itanagar in the state of Arunachal Pradesh which borders China, while Aria Deka and Rishidhya Sangkarishan, both from Assam in the far northeast, were finalists.

“I am overwhelmed with joy. I have nothing to say. I will never forget the greatest moment of my life,” Ham said after being crowned the winner.

Raising awareness among transgender people and educating them about their rights was what brought Ajan to participate in the event.

“They should be aware of gender equality everywhere. Even when you go to the office, hotel or public restroom, you have the right to ask for proper facilities,” Ajan said.

ABC News

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