More than 200 transgender persons, their allies and activists from Hyderabad in the Indian state of Telangana joined a special Christmas celebration at a Social Action institute run by the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel.
The Montfort Social Institute (MSI) held the "Montfort Rainbows Christmas Celebrations," a day of singing, dancing and sharing as part of its Christmas celebration for the Transgender Community, on 18th December.
Brother Varghese Theckanath, director of the institute, said that Christmas is "a festival for the most vulnerable, for those cut off by society."
"It is our honour to welcome our Transgender brothers and sisters, who have for so long been pushed to the margins, to this special celebration meant for them. Through this, we remember that Christmas and the love and hope it brings is for everyone," he said.
He pointed out that the birth of Christ was first announced not to the great personalities of the day but to shepherds who lived on the margins.
In India, transgender people generally referred to as 'Hijra' are often shunned, deprived of social status, and access to education, and hence forced into beggary or sex work. With the Government's recognition of transgender people as the third sex about a decade ago, efforts are to sensitize the public and integrate this community into society.
The Montfort Rainbows Christmas Celebration results from over two years of continuous engagement that MSI has had with the Transgender community in Telangana. Montfort Rainbows has worked with the community in their struggle for identity, rights and self-empowerment. It regularly facilitates sensitization meetings between the community and government and judiciary officials.
During the recent Covid-19 outbreak, MSI ensured that the Transgender community was included in the state's priority list for Covid-19 vaccinations and distributed rations to transgender people during the lockdowns.
The celebration was attended by social activists and human rights activists who shared their Christmas messages. They explained what Christmas means to them.
"When I think of MSI and when I think of Christmas, I think of love," said Jeevan Kumar, founder of the Human Rights Forum.
Guests also included Rachana Mudraboyina, a Trans Rights activist, Venkat Reddy, women's rights activist Sajaya Kakarla, social worker Mukunda Mala, queer rights activist Tashi Choedup and women's and labour rights activist Sandhya.
The key point of the celebrations was a message from Subhashini, a Christian preacher and motivational speaker who lost her right arm in an accident more than 15 years ago. She spoke of her experiences with hope as someone marginalized because of her disability.
The Montfort institute runs a Livelihoods Program, which provides grants to poor transwomen to start their entrepreneurship initiatives. It operates a 'Transwomen and Hijra Skills Development Centre' in collaboration with the state government's Women Development and Child Welfare Department.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.