Transgender Make-up Artist Ray of Hope for Community in Kashmir
The transgender community in Kashmir faced discrimination, aggression and victimisation in every aspect of life. In a male-dominant society, harassment, verbal abuse, physical and sexual violence, bullying, trolling and taunting are reported every day.
Transgenders are also victimised by their families to the extent of denial of property rights. Ghulam Mohideen (47), from Syeda Kadal, Srinagar, says that some transgenders who die are not even buried in the ancestral graveyards of their families.
Amid the gloom, Manu Bebo (20), a self-taught make-up artist, has become a ray of hope for the community. A household name in Srinagar, she too faced rejection, had heartbreaks, and was stared at and mocked by friends, family and strangers because of her sexual identity.
Bebo’s experience growing up as a transgender in a traditional family and community has been difficult. Born Mansoor in downtown Nawakadal, Srinagar, to a middle-class family, she realised her feminine side in a few years. “I knew when I was in class seven that I was a girl,” she says recalling how she was mocked by her classmates and family and reprimanded by her teachers for dressing up as a girl.
Growing up in Srinagar, she was often taunted by neighbours and faced hostility of her relatives. She was the only child in the family who was not invited to weddings. Her parents were furious because of her identity and she walked away from them several times. “My parents would stop talking to me; relatives excluded me from social gatherings and some would walk away if they saw me approach them on the streets.”
But she refused to conceal her identity.
After being rejected and hated by everyone, Bebo was determined not to let the discrimination impact her in any way. She discovered happiness within herself with the support of her buddy Ifra and chose to pursue a career in make-up. In barely four years, she specialised in bridal and special occasion make-up by posting tutorial videos on social media.
With her talent and determination, Bebo became famous on social media. Using her Instagram account, she is trying to attract more customers by posting interesting make-up tips that garner lot of likes—her ‘smoky eyes look’ video has been viewed 25,137 times. Hundreds of people frequently watch her videos. “I have always enjoyed make-up. Why a career in make-up is not possible if it is your passion?” asks Bebo.
On her Instagram feed, she openly declares herself to be the third gender. What about jealousy, which is common in the glamour industry? “Jealousy doesn’t matter since thousands of people love me,” she says referring to her Instagram followers.
She is aware that some people dismiss young people because of their gender identity. “I buy the greatest make-up items to deliver the best to my clients. I want to be a successful make-up artist,” a determined Bebo says despite some of her appointments having been cancelled as the clients could not accept her gender identity.
Her efforts have created hope for the marginalised community. “One must never lose hope. Believe in Allah and follow your intuition. Allah will always look over you,” says Bebo, who wants to be a role model for transgender women, work for their upliftment and inspire them to live life on their terms. She offers tutorials to anyone interested in working as a make-up artist.
After she started helping the family financially, Bebo’s parents were more accepting. Her father Muhammad Amin is an architect while her mother is a housewife. “Having financial security ensures that others allow you to live on your terms,” she explains.
Transgenders in Kashmir has staged protests against the government’s poor policies on their community. However, they were often beaten up by the police. Despite being educated, transgenders are not hired in Kashmir.
Bebo is leading by breaking the social hurdles and proving that nothing is impossible. She resolved to be so successful that harsh remarks would not impact her personal or professional life. “Never lose hope,” she adds.
The writer is an independent journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir and tweets at @sule_khaak.
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