Transgender individuals in India and the world have recently been achieving a lot.
Awareness among the general population has also increased due to constant efforts by activists working toward this cause.
Today’s article discusses one such landmark event that will be carved in stone for eternity, in the history of transgender activism.
Sadam Hanjabam is a PhD student and founder of Ya-All, an NGO that works to empower youth and the queer community.
What has Sadam Hanjabam done?
On March 8 this year, Ya-All finally managed to put together a 15-member squad made up of transmen, becoming India’s first transgender football team.
In an interview with Scroll, Sadam Hanjabam says “We created the sports event so that they could play in their own identity, in a safe space.”
How did this transgender football team come to being?
The idea for this came to Sadam Hanjaban during a Manipuri festival.
The Yaoshang Festival is one of Manipur’s most captivating and vibrant festivals.
This festival marks the onset of spring and is often referred to as the ‘Holi of Manipur’, celebrated across five days.
The major attraction of the festival (along with its rich cultural heritage) is all the sports and games where people across communities, ages and gender come together to take part.
But Hanjaban understood not everyone was included in the festivities as he noticed how locals divided themselves into male and female, leaving no place for the inclusion of the third gender.
Thus to include the third gender he conducted a separate sports event for the queer community in 2018, the first of its kind in Imphal.
He choose football as it is one of the most loved sports in the region.
He managed to stage a six-a-side friendly match between transmen and transwomen.
It turned out to be a crowd-puller.
Surprised by the buzz it created within the community, Hanjabam decided to create a football team of transgenders – something that had never been done before in India.
Because of the success of this event in 2019 more transgender men and women came ahead to participate in the event leading to the team being formed on March 8 this year.
Hanjabam is proud of what the event has become.
The latest edition of the queer games, which was attended by more than 100 people, witnessed a seven-a-side match being played among the squad.
It also generated interest among media outlets in Imphal and across India.
What have and are still struggles that the Transgender movement is facing?
Hanjabam has been successful in making a transmen’s team but he acknowledges he has not been able to replicate this success from a transwomen team.
He states that he didn’t find much support as most of them, who are employed in the beauty and fashion industry, weren’t interested in sports.
Striker Nick Huidrom, the team’s most senior member says that he has never faced any form of discrimination despite his identity.
He mentions, “My father was proud of me when he found out that I was part of India’s first transgender team.”
“There was no need for me to even come out to my family members. My father has been very supportive. He understood me and what I felt like, so there was no need to reveal my identity.”
But not many in his region are this lucky.
Huidrom mentions in a statement that “My colleagues and friends, who are transmen, want to play but aren’t ready,” he said. “They don’t feel comfortable as the media will be there and their parents won’t be supportive or ready to accept them.”
Thus Hanjabam acknowledges more awareness has to take place in this field and he is glad to organise more queer events to do the same.
“There are many talented players but due to the discrimination they might face in the field of the society without a safety net, it’s a risk. Their family may disown them and they could face a stigma,” said Hanjabam.
Credits:- The Deccan Herald, Scroll and The Indian Express.
Featured Image Credits:- Twitter