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9 Feb 2017

Of sexuality & boundaries - Dance and gender questions on book fest platform

Sudeshna Banerjee, TT, Feb. 8: "What do I do with my sexuality" was the question that panellists asked of themselves at the Kolkata Literature Festival, held in association with The Telegraph, at the Calcutta Book Fair. "Enjoy," was the point-blank answer of Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, who chose to stand at the lectern rather than sit with other panellists so that she could be fully visible - with her thick mane cascading till the waist over her shimmering sari.
"Women are fools not to love themselves. I was a lioness on a hunt. I have written about those encounters in my book Red Lipstick: The Men in My Life. For me, men have been like tissue papers - use and throw. But now I have a husband," declared the head of the Kinnar Akhada.
The transgender social activist pointed out that Indian society was liberal till "morality was injected by the British".
She pointed towards The Mahabharata. "Draupadi had five husbands yet she was a sati. No one asked Kunti and Madri how they had five sons by four gods. The Kauravas were born off the sage Vyas."
"But I am not Sita," she thundered. "I will not give agnipariksha," she said.
Laxmi made a strong case for transgenders on the streets. "Ninety-five per cent children get thrown out by their families in our community. They end up helpless and being sexually abused."
Dona Ganguly performs on the final day of the Kolkata Literature Festival. (Arnab Mondal)
When his novel Don't Let Him Know was set to be published in 2015, Sandip Roy, the third panellist, was worried it might be dated. "Gays were not seen as an American import anymore. Article 377 was a boiling topic."
His book has a woman visiting her son in the US and the son discovering a man's love letter which he thinks was addressed to his mother. But the mother can't tell him that it was written to his father. "At that time, a Delhi girl committed suicide as her husband was gay. I realised that society might be okay with LGBT parades now but if it (sexual aberration) happens in one's own backyard, we cannot take it," said Roy.
Manabi Bandyopadhyay, the first transgender principal of a government college, said she believed in the philosophy of all creatures being female and only the creator male. "People confuse between sexuality and intercourse. It is not out of Victorian prudery but colonial fetish for purity," said the author of Endless Bondage, a book on the daily life of transgenders.

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