This is the first such initiative by members of the community as they gradually try to come out in the mainstream.
In the pre-puja shopping spree that engulfs Kolkata, thousands of shops sell millions of saris every year. But a two-day exhibition-cum-sale of saris and handcrafted jewellery to be held next week in the south Kolkata neighbourhood of Jadavpur will perhaps set a mark in the social history of the city.
In a move to step out in the mainstream, transgender and queer (lesbian-gay-bisexual) artists of the city will sell saris they have designed and produced along with jewellery.
“We were thinking of such an effort for quite some time, and finally decided to hold it just before Durga Puja. This is the biggest festival of Bengal when the people go on a shopping spree,” said Upasana Agarwal, an alumni of Jadavpur university, an artist by profession and founder and organising member of Amra Odbhut (We are queer), the group that is behind the event.
Junk jewellery made by queer artists.
The products to be displayed will include hand-embroidered saris, T- shirts, apart from jewellery. The sale will be held on September 16 and 17.
The group also runs a pop-up café selling a variety of items cooked by queer and transgender persons, which, the organisers claim, is the first such café in the country.
Members of the transgender community of Bengal are now looking for opportunities to merge with the mainstream of society. A few weeks ago some of them organised relief for flood victims in the state. This step along with the sale of saris, tee shirt and jewellery indicate that a section of the community are planning their own activity rather than waiting for government’s welfare schemes.
The members of Amra Odbhut said the jewellery will be priced between Rs 250 and Rs 2,500. The saris will be priced Rs 2,500 onwards. I can guarantee the products will be worth each penny they spend,” Agarwal said.
According to city-based transgender rights activist and co-founder of Amra Odbhut, Raina Roy, during the exhibition, snacks prepared by the members of the community will be served.
Bengal is a state where the transgender community has received some attention. The Mamata Banerjee government appointed Manabi Bandyopadhyay as the country’s first transgender college principal. In July this year, Joyita Mondal Mahi, 29, the state’s first transgender judge of a Lok Adalat.
The state government also set up a transgender development board in 2015.