Transgenders are brimming with stories to share, but are limited by their diverse backgrounds and lack of educational opportunities. The universal appeal of art transcends these.
“Transgenders live in several states and speak different languages but art is one language that connects us all,” says Kalki Subramaniam, a transgender activist, who launched the TransHearts project this week. “They may not be able to tell their stories in [universally-understood] words but through visuals, they give expression to a piece of their soul.”
The project is a series of travelling workshops and exhibitions that aims to reach 10,000 transgenders across the country. Subramaniam wants to tap into their creativity through art, make them aware of their potential and use it to express themselves.
“Being a community that has been discriminated against, we need a lot of healing and art is perfect for that,” says 32-year-old Subramaniam, an artist herself. Basic needs such as food, shelter and surgery are a priority for the community, but Subramaniam wants them to realise art as a priority too. “Many worry about loneliness and their uncertain future but when you paint, you tend to forget the past and future. You are centered on the present which can be therapeutic,” explains Subramaniam.
In the two to three day workshops, participants start with a few creative exercises. “These include coming out and creating a positive atmosphere that encourages them to share moments from their life. It’s almost like an initiation ceremony that they go through before the final marriage to art,” she says.
Many forget about time and food once the paints and brushes are handed to them. On the last day, all the artworks are displayed and participants are led into a discussion of appreciation. “With this project, we also want to identify talent and invest in them through my foundation, Sahodari,” says Subramaniam.
“One participant, Vinita, began painting on her own later and a nearby school invited her to teach art to 47 children in their summer camp, and offered to pay her Rs 500 per class,” says a beaming Subramaniam. “Initially the correspondent didn’t want a transgender to teach children but on interviewing her, he saw her passion for art and agreed that she would be the right person.”
Soon, Subramaniam will take the workshops to smaller towns and villages across the country. “I want to celebrate rural pride and reach places where the community is not known much,” says the Pollachi resident. The next step would be exhibitions at schools and universities to showcase the community’s talent.