Progress is slow, but a pioneering agency is starting to change minds
It started with the fingernails. Hed paint them, admire them for a few minutes, then clean them before anyone saw. Then it was his mothers makeup and one day a full outfit. The other kids made jokes boys werent supposed to be like that but, for Rudrani Chettri Chauhan, dressing as a woman was natural, it was fun.
At 22, Chauhan started self-identifying as a woman. She went to parties in womens clothes and posted photographs on Facebook. I started getting compliments. People used to say: You pose like a model, are you modelling? Can you show us how to do it too? I thought, why cant trans people, who spend half their lives trying to look effeminate and beautiful, do this job?
So in 2015 Chauhan set up Bold, Indias first modelling agency for trans people. We held auditions and then we did our first shoot. The whole community was asking for it. My whole idea was, lets set up a beginning, a milestone. How long can we keep waiting for someone else to decide when its the right time to see trans models? I thought, well do it ourselves, well show them.
This year, for the first time, three trans women have been featured on Indian magazine covers. Two were current affairs magazines, and one featured Chauhan herself.
In the south Indian state of Kerala, Vanitha, a Malayalam-language womens magazine, became the first to feature a trans woman on its cover as a fashion icon. We received tremendous positive applause from our readers, said the editor, Madhu Charan. We just wanted to highlight the birthright of any person granted by the country and state to lead a normal life.
We didnt get any negative feedback. [Our model] Deepthi, has now [become] a celebrity in Kerala. People are taking selfies with her.