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In Pictures: Manipur embraces transgenders
Community's economic success attributed to increased acceptance and respect by society in India's northeastern state.
Last updated: 03 Jun 2014 14:34
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While the current state of India's transgender people is still far from utopia, in Manipur, nestled in country's northeast, they are a highly visible and widely accepted group.

On April 15, the Supreme Court passed a landmark ruling declaring that "it was the right of every human being to choose their gender," officially recognising transgenders as members of a third gender.

It was considered a major victory for the LGBT community, also called as LGBT, considering just last year the same court upheld the constitutionality of Section 377 that crimilises homosexual sex.

For many years, the LGBT community has thrived in the small conflicted state of Manipur. Their economic prosperity has been attributed to the growth and increased acceptance of this population.

While they face undue persecution, ridicule and violence in other parts of the country, transgender people in Manipur have long been viewed as an integral part of the arts, theatre and religion.

The Maibi, a priestess of the original Meitei religion, is portrayed primarily by transgender women, in which the Maibi performs her dance as part of religious devotion.

Today, both male and female transgenders dominate the arts; from their Shakespeare-esque theatre performances, where all roles are played by men or transgender women, to the hair and makeup artists that take care of brides, models and the stars of Manipuri film and television. There is even an annual transgender beauty pageant "Trans Queen Contest" which celebrated its third year last December.

Members of the LGBT community here say that their ability to find gainful employment was a major step forward in being accepted by their families and society as a whole, in a place where many youth work in daily labour jobs or are self-employed.


/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

Denish Serm, 18, from Manipur, walking out on stage for her first "Trans Queen Contest" along with 30 participants competing for the title of "Miss Trans Queen North East 2013" in Imphal, the capital of Manipur last December. The competition, now in its third year, was punctuated by dance performances and speeches by LGBT activists. Because of Manipur's acceptance of transgender women, many of the contestants come from Manipur itself and organisers find they have a hard time getting proper representation from all the states in India's northeast.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

Jenny Khurai, the most well known make-up and hair stylist in Manipur, celebrates her birthday with friends and family. Khurai is the main earner in her family and has worked on local films as well as Bollywood productions. She also mentors many young transgender women and is considered one of the major players advocating for a visible transgender community.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

Maibi Khamba, one of the most famous and sought after Maibis, leads a Maibi dance with other transgender priestesses and performers during Lai Haraoba - the celebration of the Meitei's creation story - in Imphal.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

A transgender actor portrays a family matriarch during a performance of drama "Shumang Leela", which is always portrayed live and televised. The transgender community in Manipur is deeply involved in the field of arts, dancing, acting, writing or costume and make-up design.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

Bishesh Huirem, one of the most well-known transgender performers of "Shumang Leela", poses with Imphal police commandos backstage in between helping host "Trans Queen Contest". Huirem has identified as a transgender woman since she was a child and her family has supported her throughout her transition and career.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

A transgender male attends Jenny Khurai's birthday. In recent years more transgender men have become much more visible in Manipur, but are still far outnumbered by the number of transgender females.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

An LGBT activist prepares to give her speech against Section 377 of the Indian penal code which criminalises homosexual intercourse.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

A young transgender woman waves off a police commando. Recently there have been several incidents of sexual violence toward members of the transgender community that have resulted in widespread outrage, signaling a shift in public perception toward these crimes and their victims.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

Transgender women prepare in the back of a bus to participate in Thabal Chongba, or moon dance, which is a annual tradition during the spring months where unmarried boy and girls can hold hands and dance together under the supervision of the local neighbourhood. Increasingly space is being made for the transgender community within the traditions and festivals of Manipur.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

Female allies shout slogans and display signs during the "Trans Queen Contest".



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

Oinam Sonia, 34, a transgender woman and her partner of 10 years Oinam Hemabati, 35, a transgender male at their home in Imphal. Hemabati and Sonia run a cement shop together. Despite their commitment to one another, Hemabati's father still doesn't approve of their relationship, yet they have no issues living in their families' house.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

L Shobhabati, 44, and her partner H Tilotama have been living with one another for 20 years and have jointly run their convenience store for 13 years. She says: "No one disturbs us we live and work freely like any other person."



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

Santa Khurai, 38, an activist and founder of All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association (AMANA), a local NGO, at her family's bakery in Imphal. Khurai is one of the highly respected women in the transgender community and is considered a matriarch to younger transgender women. She has been a prominent leader in the LGBT rights movement.



/Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera

The transgender community of Manipur has been accepted far beyond what is experienced in other parts of India. The recognition by the Supreme Court of a third gender gives many hope that life for transgenders will only improve as they become less marginalised.




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images:
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captions:

Denish Serm, 18, from Manipur, walking out on stage for her first "Trans Queen Contest" along with 30 participants competing for the title of "Miss Trans Queen North East 2013" in Imphal, the capital of Manipur last December. The competition, now in its third year, was punctuated by dance performances and speeches by LGBT activists. Because of Manipur(***)s acceptance of transgender women, many of the contestants come from Manipur itself and organisers find they have a hard time getting proper representation from all the states in India(***)s northeast.

;*;

Jenny Khurai, the most well known make-up and hair stylist in Manipur, celebrates her birthday with friends and family. Khurai is the main earner in her family and has worked on local films as well as Bollywood productions. She also mentors many young transgender women and is considered one of the major players advocating for a visible transgender community.

;*;

Maibi Khamba, one of the most famous and sought after Maibis, leads a Maibi dance with other transgender priestesses and performers during Lai Haraoba - the celebration of the Meitei(***)s creation story - in Imphal.

;*;

A transgender actor portrays a family matriarch during a performance of drama "Shumang Leela", which is always portrayed live and televised. The transgender community in Manipur is deeply involved in the field of arts, dancing, acting, writing or costume and make-up design.

;*;

Bishesh Huirem, one of the most well-known transgender performers of "Shumang Leela", poses with Imphal police commandos backstage in between helping host "Trans Queen Contest". Huirem has identified as a transgender woman since she was a child and her family has supported her throughout her transition and career.

;*;

A transgender male attends Jenny Khurai(***)s birthday. In recent years more transgender men have become much more visible in Manipur, but are still far outnumbered by the number of transgender females.

;*;

An LGBT activist prepares to give her speech against Section 377 of the Indian penal code which criminalises homosexual intercourse.

;*;

A young transgender woman waves off a police commando. Recently there have been several incidents of sexual violence toward members of the transgender community that have resulted in widespread outrage, signaling a shift in public perception toward these crimes and their victims.

;*;

Transgender women prepare in the back of a bus to participate in Thabal Chongba, or moon dance, which is a annual tradition during the spring months where unmarried boy and girls can hold hands and dance together under the supervision of the local neighbourhood. Increasingly space is being made for the transgender community within the traditions and festivals of Manipur.

;*;

Female allies shout slogans and display signs during the "Trans Queen Contest".

;*;

Oinam Sonia, 34, a transgender woman and her partner of 10 years Oinam Hemabati, 35, a transgender male at their home in Imphal. Hemabati and Sonia run a cement shop together. Despite their commitment to one another, Hemabati(***)s father still doesn(***)t approve of their relationship, yet they have no issues living in their families(***) house.

;*;

L Shobhabati, 44, and her partner H Tilotama have been living with one another for 20 years and have jointly run their convenience store for 13 years. She says: "No one disturbs us we live and work freely like any other person."

;*;

Santa Khurai, 38, an activist and founder of All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association (AMANA), a local NGO, at her family(***)s bakery in Imphal. Khurai is one of the highly respected women in the transgender community and is considered a matriarch to younger transgender women. She has been a prominent leader in the LGBT rights movement.

;*;

The transgender community of Manipur has been accepted far beyond what is experienced in other parts of India. The recognition by the Supreme Court of a third gender gives many hope that life for transgenders will only improve as they become less marginalised.

Daylife ID:
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Image Source:
Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera;*;Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Al Jazeera
Gallery Source:
Daylife
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