While the debate rages on over the Supreme Court overturning the Delhi High Court verdict which had decriminalised gay sex, a choir comprising 10 transgenders is quietly practising at an ashram in Jahangirpuri. The choir is preparing to take part in the Christmas festivities of the Delhi branch of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar on Saturday.
The choir members, who are being trained by church members, are unaffected by the debate on gay rights or the church’s stand on it. Their tryst with music began when Bishop Abraham Mar Paulos decided that something needed to be done about the status of transgenders in society.
“We need to educate people that there is nothing to be afraid of. Transgenders too are a part of society, and have been so from time immemorial. They are as human as we are and deserve their rights,” says Father John Matthew of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.
“Whenever a child is born, these people are there to bless the newborn. Christmas is a time of birth and so we decided to include a transgender choir in our Christmas celebrations,” he says.
The choir members have been training for over a month at their ashram in Jahangirpuri. They will be performing Hindi carols, along with the church choir and pop singer Usha Uthup.
Choir leader Selin Thomas, a 48-year-old transgender who hails from Kerala, says the choir was formed after she got in touch with the some church members. The bishop was interested in setting up such a group and Selin agreed to help.
“This is the first time we are performing like this. We are grateful to the church for the opportunity,” she says.
Selin says she came to Delhi 33 years ago, at the age of 15. She was trained under a ‘nayak’ who worked in South Patel Nagar, and took over as the leader of the group after the nayak passed away.
Now, she runs the ashram in Jahangipuri, where she lives with her chelas (juniors).
“There are about 30-40 of us living here. We earn around Rs 5,000-6,000 a week. It’s enough for our survival. Besides, what other work can we do?” she says.
Selin says most transgenders living with her have been “shunned by their families and ridiculed by society”.
“We can’t get along with anyone. All of us have been facing this discrimination since childhood. My family didn’t support me and