‘Lavani helps me express my femininity’

Vinaya Patil
Friday, 15 December 2017

The upcoming Queer and Allies Art Fest 2017 in Pune is all set to showcase a variety of films, paintings, music and dance performances, all to create awareness about the LGBTQ communtiy (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer)

The upcoming Queer and Allies Art Fest 2017 in Pune is all set to showcase a variety of films, paintings, music and dance performances, all to create awareness about the LGBTQ communtiy (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer).

The festival, which is being held for the third time in a row in the city, will see a number of talented queer and ally artists performing. Sonali Dalvi, a transgender, is one among them and will be performing a Lavani dance at the event. “I have loved dancing ever since I was a child,” says the 29-year-old, adding, “People need to know about this community and be accepting of others’ sexualities. The festival aims to create this awareness. I wouldn’t want the future generation to face the issues that I had to as a kid.”

Now living with her parents in Pune, Dalvi had a tough time dealing with her sexuality as a child. “I was born feminine. It was natural. People asked me all the time when I came out. I tell them ‘when I was born from my mother’s womb’. I came out only once,” she says. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Dalvi found her first support system in her teachers. “They would appreciate my feminine dancing. One of my teachers even encouraged me to dress like a female on certain occasions,” she recalls.

But she went through several struggles before her parents accepted her reality. “I was taken to doctors and godmen and what not. The doctors gave me viagra and I started bleeding from my nose and had a horrible experience. Then my dad took me to this saadhu who said I should stay with him overnight and the ‘issue’ would be resolved. But I could figure the difference between good and bad touch, and told my father that he should rather give me poison than leaving me with that man,” she explains. Things changed for Dalvi after that. Her parents became supportive and encouraging. After some hormonal injections and rejections from gay groups, she decided to adopt a completely feminine lifestyle.

Speaking of her sexuality, Dalvi says that she loves her identity as a transgender because “I believe that a complete woman is one who can give birth to another life”.

At the Queer Art Festival, other local queer and queer-friendly artists will display their pictures and paintings, and some interesting movies will be screened. An open mic night of music, poetry reading, dance, stand-up comedy, and more will be part of the festivities.

“I love Lavani because it’s an art that helps me express my femininity. You, me, queer and straight artists alike can come together in solidarity to have a dialogue about sexuality, diversity and rights, and your contribution will make this possible,” Dalvi urges.

Citing examples from her life, Dalvi says that this dialogue is very much needed. People, she says, would label her as ‘abnormal’. “My teacher one day told me that the world is abnormal and not me. I got much courage from her words. But the stigma I faced was horrible. From parents to partners, everyone abuses us at some point. All we want is love, it can overcome anything and everything,” she insists.

“Someone once told me ‘these transgenders are dangerous’. And I was like, tell me about one transgender terrorist. Our basic bread and butter is a struggle. The government needs to implement the Transgender Persons Rights Bill better. I have given a number of presentations regarding this to various stakeholders about the probable solutions like employing transgenders,” says Dalvi, who works for NGO Ashirwaad for the welfare of the LGBTQ community.

“Awareness about the community was lacking until a few years ago, but it’s high time now that people accepted us,” she concludes.

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The Queer and Allies Art Fest will be held on December 17 from 12 noon to 9 pm at Farmaaish, Ganpati Chowk, Viman Nagar

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