Monday, October 12, 2009

Homosexual activists march for equality

Thousands have gathered in Washington to protest for homosexual rights, one day after President Barack Obama vowed to repeal a ban on gays in the US military.

Marchers waving rainbow flags and carrying signs calling for 'Equality now!' marched toward the White House chanting 'Pro-gay.'

Among the crowd was a man sporting a blue T-shirt reading: 'Two dads are better than one'.

A female protester wore a top that said, 'Kiss more girls', while a bare-chested sported the words, 'Gay is good', painted on his back.

Sunday's demonstration drew gay rights supporters from across the US, including many who pressed for homosexual marriage rights and an end to a policy restricting gays' participation in the military.

At a gala dinner on Saturday night, Obama renewed a promise to end the so-called Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the US military.

'I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's my commitment to you,' he said to cheers from some 3,000 activists.

'We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country. We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, especially when we're fighting two wars.'

The policy, introduced in 1993, ended the practice of asking prospective or serving military personnel about their sexual orientation, but makes 'homosexual conduct' a dischargeable offence.

More than 12,000 service members have been discharged under the policy, including specialists with language skills that are in short supply.

But repealing the policy will require the support of US lawmakers, many of whom must answer to conservative constituents and are wary of forcing a major change on the US military.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, voiced support for an end to the policy introduced by former president Bill Clinton, but warned that military support would be key.

'It has to be done in the right way,' he told NBC.

'We can do it successfully, but it ought to be done with thoughtfulness and care, and with buy-in from the military.'

'The military were the ones that ended the discriminatory policy against African-Americans. They can end it here, it will be great progress,' he said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has served as a military judge, expressed more caution.

'I am open minded as to what the military might suggest, but I can tell you I'm not going to make policy based on a campaign rally,' he told NBC.

'If this policy about Don't Ask, Don't Tell changes, it should be done based not on politics but on reason.'

Retired General Richard Myers, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that the current policy has not served as a blanket prohibition on gay service members.

'Gays can serve in the military, they just can't serve openly, and they do, and there's lots of them, and we are the beneficiary of all that,' he said.

The issue has returned to centrestage over a year after Obama pledged during his election campaign to repeal the policy.

The thousands of activists gathered in Washington on Sunday are hoping to pressure Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress to keep long-standing promises to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.

While an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a top priority for gay rights activists, many are also looking to Obama and Congress to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act, which defines marriage at the federal level as between a man and a woman.

But even many Democrats who support the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and legislation banning hate crimes against homosexuals are reluctant to repeal the act.

'I've said in the past I don't think that's the way to go,' said Democratic senator Robert Casey.

'We can move forward on a lot of measures, but I'm not sure there's the support yet for that,' he said on CNN.

Democratic senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan noted her state has passed a ballot initiative banning gay marriage.

'I think, for a number of us, that becomes a challenge in terms of what has happened in terms of voting in our states,' she said.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Gender bender: will and way to cross over

While youngsters his age were going to college and checking out career options, Sushanto Das was fielding a volley of questions from Rabindra Bharati University, where he had been denied admission, because of his sexuality. While his earlier para friends where enjoying gully cricket, he was dealing with insults from neighbours who took it upon themselves to make his and his family?s life miserable. He was scared, upset and totally at a loss.

Now 29-year-old Sushanto is Tista , confident with a new name, sexuality and identity. Decked in all prettiness in a saree with a hint of lipstick, bangles, bindi and bead jewellery, she is through with her days of apprehension and misery, as she takes up a career in acting.

A transexual woman, Tista, already has two films in her booty. ?I had been working as research assistant in Calcutta for a University of Berkeley fellow on gender identity disorder. I had amassed a whole lot of material on the subject and had written a script for a film to deal with the topic.?

When Tista had taken her idea to film-maker Buddhadeb Dasgupta, he made her act in a 25-minute documentary I could not be your son, mom, which was eventually shot partly in her Agarpara home and Calcutta.

?In Buddhada?s movie, I did not have much acting to do. But as I faced the camera for the first time, I realised it was my calling,? says Tista.

Next came Subrata Dutta?s 45-minute film The Third Gender? which was screened at the Bulgaria film festival recently. ?I played actress Arunima Ghosh?s friend and confidante. Though the name hints at some ambiguous gender in the film, I was not directly part of that ambiguity. In fact, the name alludes to Arunima?s character in the movie,? says Tista.

Right now, Tista is getting ready to act alongside June Maliah in Shankho Ghosh?s full-length feature film Ebong Fera and telefilm Naari, where she plays a college girl. ?While I was scared about how I would look on screen, my directors always pacified me saying, it was their duty to see to it. So my priority remains now to improve my acting skills,? she explains.

Having had positive responses from some of Calcutta?s well-known theatre companies, Tista has finally decided to join Shaonli Mitra?s Panchambaidik. ?I start rehearsals from next week,? she says, adding, ?I had been an active member of Akashbani?s Golpodadur Ashor when I was a kid. After I turned 14, a fresh audition saw me through to Yubabani. I still enjoy reciting poetry at functions,? she explains as she narrates a couplet from her own book of poetry, Noshto Podaboli, published by Prothom Aalo.

Flush with excitement of having signed a contract for acting in Akash Bangla?s series Sahityer Sera Somoy, Tista is also getting ready with a book on her life, which she will call Shudhu Hridoyer Jonyo.

Tista Das

Tista Das or simply Tista (born 20 December 1976) a noted transsexual, is an Indian actress who has acted in quite a few Hindi and Bengali film industry productions as lead actress along with playing other supporting roles.

Personal Life

Born Sushanto Das, Tista was diagnosed with gender identity disorder (GID) at an early stage of life and consequently underwent sex reassignment surgery with the help of Dr. Sheila Rohatgi, a prominent plastic surgeon from Kolkata who specializes in SRS procedures. Following this Tista went public with her identity and was a source of much controversy and social upheaval regarding stereotypes associated with the transsexual community. Her case played a pivotal role in changing the misconceptions in Indian society about transsexuality and went on to provoke a positive national debate in the press and the media on the ethics of sex change and transsexual rights in India. A social activist in transsexual issues and a vocal proponent of transsexual rights, Tista is also a prominent actress with a string of film and television soap appearances to her credit. A rare feat in India which is known for its ostracization of the transsexual community, Tista is regarded by many as an icon of empowerment and choice for the transsexual community in India.

Although she was rejected admission initially for undergraduate studies at Rabindra Bharati University, she graduated through correspondence from Bethune College of the University of Calcutta

Tista is an actor by profession and has quite a few films and various television roles and appearances to her credit. She has also worked as research assistant in Calcutta for a University of California, Berkeley fellow on gender identity disorder

She acted in Buddhadeb Dasgupta's, documentary - I could not be your son, mom,

She played a role in Subrata Dutta’s 45-minute film The Third Gender? which was screened at the Bulgaria film festival recently, in which ironically the transsexual role is played by someone else.

She also plays the lead role in Beyond Reflections, a movie about her life directed by Umesh Bist.

Right now, Tista is getting ready to act alongside June Maliah in Shankho Ghosh’s full-length feature film Ebong Fera and telefilm Naari, where she plays a college girl.

Having had positive responses from some of Calcutta's well-known theatre companies, Tista has finally decided to join Shaonli Mitra’s Panchambaidik.

Flush with excitement of having signed a contract for acting in Akash Bangla’s series Sahityer Sera Somoy, Tista is also getting ready with a book on her life, which she will call Shudhu Hridoyer Jonyo.

Gazal Dhaliwal

Thank you, sorry, thank you Gazal, for so succinctly describing the un-caging of your original self from captivity you were jailed in for a quarter century. Till I read your beautiful piece in "The Week" (March9,2008), I was one of the thousands who used to view write ups and talks about gender duality as a cover for unnatural relationships. Even the hundreds of Eunuchs I used to meet on my drive down to office and back in Mumbai, also evoked a not too sympathetic or understanding reaction, I must confess. But no longer, Gazal. You have opened up a whole new vision for me and I am sure a thousand others like me. True I may not still fully imbibe the emotions you tried to convey, nor feel the trauma you suffered as Gazal inside Gunraj's body. But in one Para you have made me give out my heart to you and may be many others like you. Gazal, you were so poetic but explicit, when you wrote,"It is not about the way I think, it is about the way I am.I do choose to be like this, Papa. I was born this way. Why don't you go and try living as a member of the opposite gender?" My, you couldn’t have said it better, Gazal. In that last question you have made me realize all the pain, all the torment and all the trepidations. You have made my heart bleed for you and all those like you, some lucky, some still unlucky. You have made me realize that this is also a natural phenomenon in our evolution.

How very true when you say "...there is this one thing I caught up with, recently and not many people do that-Life!". Madam. Aap ne sahi kaha. You have caught up with life, a life you fully deserve, a life filled with happiness, compliments and satisfaction. I only hope your story encourages thousands of Gunrajs in the society to release the Gazals locked inside them, or the other way round. Best of luck, Gazal Dhaliwal.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Four gay couples tie the knot in Chandigarh

Enthused by the Delhi High Court verdict decriminalizing gay sex, at least four gay couples in this city have performed wedding rituals at a prominent temple, declaring themselves as married.

Umesh, 25, and Sudarshan (name changed), 24, who were living together for eight years in a slum rehabilitation colony here, were already "married" but after the verdict, they exchanged the vows once again Tuesday.

On Wednesday, three more young gay couples tied the knot in the ancient Mansa Devi shrine in Panchkula, some 10 km from here.

"We have been staying together in the same rented room for the last eight years. In fact, we had married in a temple around four years ago but we did not make it public due to the fear of society," Sudarshan, who works with the state AIDS Control Society, told IANS Wednesday.

"However, the recent decision given by the Delhi court has given us new courage, and we married again yesterday in the presence of a few of our friends. We have no grudges and now we can tell everyone about our marriage with full dignity," he added.

Read More about the marriage

Crossdresser caught dressed

Have you ever been caught dressed? Well, I have been caught several times.

The first time, I have been caught dressed is long before. It was in my 9th standard, if I guess right. That day, I was all alone in home. I had a saree and blouse, which was stitched for our Kollam CD Festival. As I am alone at home, I thought of dressing, and I dressed in saree and had made make-up using my mother's make-up kit. I doesn't had a wig that time. After I got dressed, I was watching TV. By mistake I forgot to close the front door of my house properly. At that time, one of my friend came and seen me in saree watching TV on the sofa.

I was in a very bad situation, that I can't express. I was afraid, shy, embarrassed... He started laughing at me. Suddenly I gone and closed the door properly and begged him not to say about this to anyone. He agreed. Still I was feeling very shy. After sometime, he said me that, I am very beautiful in that outfit. Slowly I recovered from my shyness. That time he asked me, "Can you behave like my lover for sometime?" I agreed, as I was feeling like a complete female with him. I laid on his lap and pretended to be watching tv. And he wanted to kiss me. I tried to quit, but in some frightness, I agreed. After I accepted his kiss, some extra-ordinary feeling came in my mind and hugged him. He also liked it.

Read more about the catch

Sex Change Surgery/Sex Reassignment Surgery

What is the Sex Change Surgery/Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS)?
Sex change surgery/sex reassignment surgery refers to the administration of surgery to change the sex appearance according to one's sex identity. There are two kinds of surgery. Genital surgical sex reassignment: surgery of the genitalia and/or breasts performed for the purpose of altering the morphology in order to approximate the physical appearance of the
genetically other sex. Non genital surgical sex reassignment: any and all other surgical procedures of non-genitalia or non-breast, conducted for the purpose of effecting a more masculine appearance in a genetic female or for the purpose of effecting more feminine appearance in a genetic male.
As a former step of SRS, there is a hormonal sex reassignment, which is the administration of androgen to genotype females, and administration of estrogen and/or progesterone to genotype males, for the purpose of effecting somatic changes in order for the patient to more closely approximate the physical appearance of the other sex.

Read More about Sex Reassignment