Story by Jonathan Ripley, Policy and Advocacy Manager and Sophia Lonappan, Communications Officer, India HIV/AIDS Alliance
The Miss Transgender Beauty Queen contest attracted an audience of approximately 1,000 people who sat late into the night watching the contestants as they strode down the catwalk, danced, and answered questions about HIV/AIDS, rights and sexual health.
As the music and lights pulsed, family members, fellow transgender people, men who have sex with men (MSM) and other community members, government officials, social activists and even members of the Indian Special Armed Forces watched the show. This is particularly remarkable because Manipur, which has experienced a violent separatist insurgency since 1964, usually shuts down after dark.
The demonstration of community talent was the most spectacular part of the evening. In addition to the flawless makeup and choreography, the contestants worked with local designers to make their elaborate gowns. Some worked for months amassing the necessary items to take their couture creations over the top. There were also prizes for Most Talented, Most Feminine, Most Disciplined, Best Catwalk, and Best Designer.
Community and state working together
Both the transgender community and government took shared ownership of the event. The Manipur State AIDS Control Society donated
funding to cover the cost of the venue, and the transgender community mobilized resources for the prize money. Ms. L. Shantibala, the wife of the Manipur State Health Minister, presented the winner of Miss Transgender Beauty Queen 2011 with her crown.
The Pehchan Project
The event was a part of the Global Fund supported Pehchan Project and its programme advocacy efforts. The project is being implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance and its six partners. It also has the strong support of the Indian Government.
Pehchan is developing the capacity of community-based organizations to lead the HIV response among MSM, transgender and hijra populations in 17 states.
The Beauty Queen event was a landmark achievement for the transgender community in Manipur who used to come together informally for smaller performances but never at this scale.
And it doesn’t end here; there is talk of opening the competition up to the entire Northeast region next year.
For more information contact: Jonathan Ripley, Manager: Advocacy & Policy, India HIV/AIDS Alliance