Walking with pride

Alisha Shinde
Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Navya Singh, model and Kathak dancer, wants to be recognised for her talent and work, and not just for her gender

In 2011, Parvinder Singh was born, born again as Navya. Singh’s journey is interesting. Originally from Bihar and now settled in Mumbai, he was the firstborn in his family. Since his mother really wanted to have a daughter, she would dress him like a baby girl for a while. 

However, at the age of five, Singh knew he wasn’t like the other boys his age. His choices and mannerisms were often questioned by friends and relatives leaving Singh confused, because he truly knew within who he was. 

In his teens he started embracing himself as a woman. “My family and close relatives were obviously embarrassed about it. It was something unusual or rather ‘abnormal’ in my hometown like it is in several parts of the country,” says Singh, who proudly expresses her gender identity now. 

She recalls that it was then that she started reading and learning about gender reassignment surgeries and treatments from a confidant. “I knew right away that I had to make my way to the city of dreams — Mumbai, to find myself and to be who I really was,” she adds. 

As soon as she arrived in Mumbai, she rechristened herself Navya. She chose the name because that’s what people would call her when making fun of her as a kid. 

Initially, Singh stayed with her aunt, who always tried to fix her ‘issues’. “I knew I had to take a stand for myself, and believe in myself that I was meant for certain things. So when the abuse got more than I could handle, I decided to leave and start a brand new life,”  she says. 

She points out that she always found support and help in a trans-activist in the city, because of whom she took up dance as a career and now is a professional Kathak dancer. The model proudly adds that when she spoke to her mother asking her to support her decision, she immediately obliged. “My mother not only accepted what I told her but she also came to the city to help me with my surgery and the therapy for almost a year. When your family supports you, you feel confident about yourself and the fact that they believe in you gives you the ultimate boost to stand up against and face the world that is ever ready to ridicule and taunt you,”  Singh adds.  

With the help of organisations and activists who tirelessly work for the rights of the LGBTQI community she began to get a lot of work. “It started with small projects and I began climbing the ladder with my talent and dedication,” says Singh. 

She bagged a few commercial projects as well. Her biggest achievement was walking the ramp for Lakme Fashion Week 2016 as the first trans-woman. She walked for designer Kanika Vora. “When I walk the ramp, people don’t even notice that I am a transgender,” says Singh, proudly adding that she is now preparing for India’s first beauty pageant for trans-women. 

Being a Kathak dancer, Singh wants to contribute to the art form without the label of transgender. That said, she is comfortable with her identity. “I want to tell people, especially the ones who are in their transition phase, that if they’ve decided to do something with their life, no one can stop them,”  she says. 

Having someone who believes in you is an added advantage. “Surely, the community believes and supports transgenders, but support from family is essential for mental peace. People now are gradually accepting transgenders, but the ones who  transitioned back in the day still live in the trauma of abuse and neglect that they faced. It would mean a great deal if their loved ones accepted them the way they are,”  Singh concludes.

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