Learning from Differences: Model and alumni of St Aloysius Junior College, Mangaluru Transwoman Nayantara inspires AICUF (All India Catholic University Federation) Aloysians with her inspirational story. Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no freedom without it! With starry eyes in her name, Nayantara came to learn that her feminine energy was the foundation of who she was and she drew strength from it.
Mangaluru: “Living with all the abilities in life is not a big deal, but having disabilities in life and then living life perfectly is the greatest achievement in life and people with this spirit are the born survivors. – this quote is very suitable for all those people who have proven that it is not physical abilities or looks that make you successful in life, rather it is your mind and attitude that encourage you to achieve something in life. It places you somewhere in society. As it is said, “If there is a ‘WILL’, there is always a ‘WAY.’
And here we have Ms. Nayantara, a transgender woman, fashion blogger and independent artist relations consultant who lives in Mumbai and whose roots are from Mangaluru. Born Yogesh to parents based in Mangaluru, and later changing her name to Nayantara (meaning – One who has stars in her eyes) did her PUC at St. Aloysius Mangaluru in 2015-2017 and moved to Mumbai to pursue a degree in Media Studies. Before fashion, she had found a way to express herself bravely and that was poetry. Nayantara used his ink as a voice in St. Aloysius and wrote about various social issues in his writings and harbored a love for literature. She remains grateful to St Aloysius PU College for giving her the wings to fly and providing her with a safe and friendly environment. Years later, Mumbai offered her the freedom to discover and explore her feminine energy which was suppressed within her due to social pressure.
At 22, Nayantara is enjoying her own meteoric rise, where she burst onto the Indian fashion scene in 2018, when the transgender model from Mumbai became one of the faces of Viacom’s VH1 Supersonic Music Festival ad campaign. aired on TV channels like MTV, Comedy Central India, etc. With no plans to become a model, a career in fashion came to Nayantara out of the blue. Over four years of her modeling career, Nayantara has been associated with brands such as NIKE, LEVI’S, AMAZON, MYNTRA, FLIPKART, PEPSI, ARCHANA KOCHHAR, SOCH to name a few. She has judged various fashion shows and has also appeared on the panels of India’s reputable institutes which revolve around the plight of trans women in Indian society, their empowerment and employment.
Nayantara has always spoken about the representation of trans women and the LGBTQ+ community in the media and embraced her femininity unabashedly. With all his hard work, determination, successes and achievements, Nayantara is the living example of this. Her rise to fame in India was swift after that: she started appearing on the panels of various Indian institutes, in addition to judging fashion shows across the country. Currently, Nayantara is also a guest speaker in fashion styling who has been featured on platforms like Humans Of Bombay, Eros Now, Bombay Times, Humans Of Mangalore, etc. and diversity in recent years. Nayantara shares, “There is a plethora of stereotypes that trans women face in all walks of life.
Towards a more egalitarian goal! In order to strive towards an egalitarian society, one must delve into the realm of its prevalent practices, which cause discrimination in society. To embrace one of the mainstays of Aicuf among students, namely transgender people, the All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF) unit of St Aloysius College, Mangaluru had recently invited Ms Nayantara to the College, where the program s took place at Fr Joseph Willy Hall, Block Maffei at St Aloysius College. The program began with prayer led by Romero and his team. Anup Denzil Veigas gave the resource person a green welcome and Ms. Melvita Baretto introduced the resource person, Ms. Nayanthara to the gathering.
Nayantara addressed students on issues relating to gender equality, the normalization of homosexuality, gender binaries and their impact on society, knowing the identity of queer communities through the prism of transphobic or queerphobic people and facts about pronouns and rebuttals. Along with talking about the issues, she also tried to shed some light on topics such as body transition types in trans women i.e. post-op and pre-op surgeries, adoption of femininity, the representation of trans women and LGBTQ+ communities in society, etc. emphasizing the plight of transgender people, she asked students to unlearn or deschool the so-called stereotypical norms structured in society regarding gender identities. She added that we all try to understand each other – whether it’s our sexual orientation or our gender identity. The only possible way to become normal is to be kind to people, regardless of their differences.
Nayantara was more realistic than cynical about the confined thoughts society has about trans people. In response to this, she added, “The only exposure people have of trans women in most towns, not just Mangaluru, is beggars or sex workers. It’s a harsh reality. So when people see trans women like me or others out there. It is very difficult for them to digest that we live a life like everyone else. That I am educated, that I have a job and that I have a roof under which to rest. I am neither a beggar nor a sex worker. Not that either is a bad thing. It’s still 2021 and the only exposure people have on trans women is from these two binaries and the work is a lot actually”.
“Most of the time people come across my work or photos and comment and say, are you sure you’re a trans woman? Because you don’t look like it, which a lot of people think, so my friends told me to take it as a compliment. What they mean is that you look like a biological woman. ‘So you should be happy about that.’ But I don’t think that’s something you should tell anyone. You shouldn’t comment on trans people based on their outward appearance. When you say “you don’t look trans enough” you are actually categorizing beauty standards or constructing beauty standards by which trans women are expected to look a certain way and biological women are expected to look a certain way. supposed to have a certain appearance. So who gets to decide like who should look a certain way? Which is again a very harmful notion. Which then creates a kind of unspoken pressure on trans women to start fighting to look like women, which is very unrealistic,” Nayantara added.
The session was followed by question and answer sessions and interactions. The program ended with the vote of thanks proposed by Mrs. Alita D’sa, professor at the College. Interacting with the Mangalorean team after the program at St Aloysius College, Nayantara who is in Mangaluru for a few days as a model for a clothing brand, talking about trans women, Nayantara said, “I think there are so many stereotypes and pre-op trans discrimination that women face in most areas of their lives. By this, I do not mean to minimize the struggles and difficulties of trans women post-op and beyond. But we need to understand that not all trans people want to transition medically, and that’s totally valid. Preoperative trans women are women and we need to move beyond this harmful debate.
While prejudices such as “models cannot pursue intellectual professions” still exist today, to everyone’s surprise, Nayantara had taken up teaching part-time outside of the busy modeling schedule. She says, “Teaching has always been a passion. Back in school, I remember being tickled when a teacher went on maternity leave because she gave me the responsibility of dictating notes to the class. I knew that I loved teaching and all that related to it”.
She adds: “After graduation, although I had a good CV and excellent grades at UNI, many institutes were hesitant to hire me because they were ‘afraid’ if a problem arose from the students’ parents about a trans teacher. To add to that, I’m currently also a fashion blogger and model and there’s a bias in the air that I can’t simultaneously work in academia” speaking of negative notions about the trans community, he informs. she further, “Nevertheless, I knew I was good at my interviews and presentations. I think it’s important to have faith and believe in yourself. Currently, I have taken a break from teaching, but I am focusing more on modeling. I’ve always said this: “I don’t need sympathy, rather I demand equality.”
“Many times I get compliments from strangers on the internet, work fraternity or even friends like ‘Oh you look so pretty like a normal woman’, ‘Really? I can’t understand that you are a trans woman. a trans woman is supposed to look a certain way. It is sometimes exhausting! But, we rest under the stars of mothers before us who fought for our rights. The journey must continue. Our stories matter. Our voices matter. said Nayantara.
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