TRANSGENDER – Does the word ring a bell? Does it acquire your unwarranted attention? For those who are socially aware and conscious about sensitive issues this word might not bring about earth shattering changes but for most of the inhabitants of our country the word and the associated meaning might be very well still considered a taboo. The transgender community at large is still considered to be a pariah in our community even after the massive intervention from the government and media. They are still chained by the illogical barriers of archaic ideologies and obsolete perspectives. The encroachment in our so called civilized society is so atrocious that often they are even bereft of the basic right of being considered a Human being. But after even such harsh obstacles, we find individuals who overcome every hurdle with their sheer will , aspiration and dedication. One such story is that of Ponni, a Trans woman who overcame all social stigma and achieved what she always had a deep passion for – DANCE.
Born in Tuticorin, Ponni is the youngest in the family. Dance has been her fascination since childhood. “I knew I was different from others. Dance helped me come to terms with my sexuality,” she says
Initially, I was denied proper training because of my gender expression”, says Ponni who had undergone a sex reassignment surgery in her 20s. But her zealous passion towards dance could not resist her from secretly watching the dance sessions. She joined a dance class for a year when she was in 8th grade but her training could not continue during high school because of the academic pressure she faced. Academics always had immense importance in her life and thus she pursued B.Sc in Mathematics. But dance ruled over her mind and she always had an insatiable desire for it. Thus she pursued a Diploma in Bharatnatyam and eventually received a M.A. in Dance. But she never stopped dreaming. Once such long awaited dream was opening up a dance academy. Thus when she got the invitation to teach as a dance trainer in Theni District by an NGO she took one huge step towards achieving her dream. There she taught 20 students. Her fear of non-acceptance by the society was broken when she got immense amount of respect from her students. This inspired her to start her own dance class. As a result, Abhinaya Nrityalaya was started in 2006 in Vyasarpadi, Chennai for which Ponni got a government loan of Rs 1 lakh.
“My main motto was to teach slum children because when I was young, I was rejected by a dance class which taught only Brahmin children”, says Ponni. Ponni who started with just 4 students is presently teaching 35 students which also include some transgender students in her own academy. Moreover, she is also learning Nattuvangam from Guru Shivakumar in Shivakalalayam. Besides running her own academy, Ponni teaches 100 students in Shivakalalayam and in some government schools as well. “Dance is beneficial for the physical well being of a person. It also increases concentration”, says Ponni. Apart from dance, she also organizes summer camps for teaching Music and Yoga.
When asked that was achieving all this difficult she gracefully replies with a shimmer of determination in her eyes that, “ One must have a proper aim and strive hard to achieve it. Only then you will meet success.”
It is journeys like these which redefine the meaning of determination and willpower altogether and conquer social, psychological, physical and gender based discriminations and thus give hope to the millions of human beings around the world and inspire them to live a life of dignity and pride irrespective of their colour, creed, caste, nationality and sexuality.