Classification is important as it makes the complex life much simpler. We classify things everyday and even put the stimuli from environment into groups. From the time we are born, we are subjected to be classified according to our sex which helps the society assign the gender roles and decide the way an individual is to be brought up.
If it is a girl, she is to be dressed in pink and made to play with dolls while boys are to be dressed in blue and it is presumed that they will play with cars and action figures. But what happens when someone does not fit into the criteria that the society has formulated. Those who do not fit into either of the criteria are declared abnormal and are discriminated against from the time they step into this world.
What it feels like being “different”, when your biological sex does not match your sexual identity. It is like living your whole life as a beautiful and attractive lady but one sudden day, you wake up as a man with strong built, muscles, body hair and facial hair. You can no longer dress up in the exquisite manner the way you used to, can no longer be who you are. This is what it is to be “not normal” or what we call as transgender. It is like being trapped inside yourself.
We all are born with a sense of self identity and a sexual characteristic of either male or female. But these both may not always match and most transgender realize this incongruence as early as at the age of 4. This incongruence is attributed to the hormonal imbalances in the developing fetus which results in a brain which develops outside of the norm of the physical sex. The person thus develops a sexual orientation opposite to that of the physical sex. And what after that? No, these individuals are not just struggling within themselves but face hostility and harassment but the world too.
At home, they feel dejected and at schools these kids get bullied and are mocked at for their gender and sexuality. This continues as they grow up and struggle to get a job where again they are discriminated against. But there have been certain people who have managed to break the prejudice and stereotypes people have towards transgender. They have managed to come out of the shackles of the slumber and made it to their dreams. Narthaki Nataraj is an example of a woman (not naturally born as one) who made it to her dreams despite all the hindrances and inhibitions on her way.
Narthaki Nataraj, India’s first transgender Bharatanatyam dancer made it to the apex of her dance form in spite of exclusion and derision faced by her.
It was at the age of 10 that Nataraj realized that he was born in the wrong body and driven by social insecurity he left his home at the age of 12. Nataraj had interest in dance which made him fall in love with it since an early age. He would perform at his school functions and wipe off his makeup but always got caught by his parents. After leaving his home, he and his friend did menial jobs to earn a living and Nataraj kept searching for a guru who would accept him and help him with his dream. He finally found Thanjavur Kittappa Pillai in 1984. As he pleaded his heart out, hoping to be accepted Kittappa rechristened him Narthaki Nataraj.
Classical dance at that time was still female dominated and was far from reform but bharatanatayam in the 20th century went through some reformulations and male performers were finally starting to be accepted. Narthaki then studied bharatanatayam from the guru- kittappa. When presented before the dance community, she was laughed at but ultimately accepted and she grew as a phenomenal dancer. She went on to establish her own dance schools in Chennai and Madurai. In 2007, she was honored by the government of Tamil Nadu with the Kalaimamani award. And in 2011 she was honored with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award by the president of India, a first for any transgender.