Thursday, October 1, 2009

This Queer Little Planet: Transgender Indians get their own beauty shop

The first beauty salon catering to India's Transgendered Community has opened for business in Dehli.

(From The Times of India)

"Welcome to Queer Beauty Parlour, probably the first beauty treatment centre run exclusively for transgenders in and around the capital. And by the looks of it, this unique centre which gives gays not only beauty solutions but also their own free space, is a runaway hit with the community.

When NGO, Pahal Foundation, which works with gay men under a community initiative to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS in Faridabad, started the parlour in April this year, it expected just a few clients from within Faridabad. But within six months, Simmy -- a transgender himself -- and his support staff have their hands full.

"Transgenders who wanted a feminine appearance found it almost impossible to get any beauty treatment anywhere. The parlours for women just did not take them and those meant for men would make them a subject of ridicule. Hence the concept of a beauty parlour for transgenders found favour and the initiative started as a self help group effort in April," says Yadavendra Singh, who heads the Pahal centre in Faridabad.

Pahal's centre in Ashoka Enclave's main market in sector 35, where the parlour is located, had become a quiet refuge for the community which came to seek solace from the trauma they faced in society. In this community space, Pahal then decided to add a single beauty counter with all the basic paraphernalia required to make a parlour tick.

"It was felt that awareness was not enough. It was important to create economic opportunities for the community as well. The idea was put up before the community and beauty found mention in the discussions. Many members expressed the need for beauty parlours for transgenders," says Singh.

Pahal Foundation is an outreach initiative for gays in Faridabad as part of a project on HIV supported by the Haryana State AIDS Control Society.

Simmy, 24, who has trained under a renowned beauty expert who also happens to be a transgender, was the first to join the initiative. Simmy says he is more comfortable working at Queer Beauty parlour than he was at the other places. "This is our space and we don't have to follow the rules set by society for behaviour expected of men or women. Around seven to eight clients come every day," he says.

In fact, Simmy is now training others through regular classes at the centre. The course fee has been kept low at Rs 1,000.

At the parlour, a variety of beauty products are lined along a large mirror. But unlike other parlours, pasted on the wall are stories about the worldwide gay and lesbian movement through pictures and collages. On the counter where combs and clips lie scattered, small pamphlets on safe sex and HIV/AIDs can be seen placed neatly in one corner.

As Simmy works on a hairstyle for Kali, a transgender who comes regularly from Madangir area for beauty treatment, he says the parlour is doing reasonably well. Checking his hair in the mirror, Kali nods in agreement. "I like it here. It is comfortable," he says."
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