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The Other Side of Transsexuals

Villupuram (Tamil Nadu): Over 3,000 transsexuals in Tamil Nadu who donated their eyes last month are hoping that society will now "see" them differently.//

"I am Nayantara," said a transvestite who is an AIDS awareness campaigner from Vellore and pledged a pair of eyes along with 3,000 others under the aegis of the Tamil Nadu AIDS Initiative (TAI), a body affiliated to the state's Voluntary Health Services.

The mass eye donation by the 'aravanis' (those with half a voice) - as transvestites are called in the state - on Jan 24 also marked the first 'Aravani Day', a special day for Tamil Nadu's 200,000 transsexuals.

"Society has so long looked at us with suspicion. I have donated my eyes. Will society now look at us with new eyes?" Shekhar, who hails from Perambur, told IANS.

At least 1,500 aravanis gathered in Chennai in the last week of January to talk about their community work, the professional changes they had to make, their healthcare initiatives and self-help groups. They also displayed their artistic talents by reciting poetry and playing drums.

Slowly but steadily, the transgender society, including transvestites, in the state are emerging out of the shadows to claim their rightful place in society.

"In the tsunami-hit coastal village of Nallur, where people are still coming to terms with life, we were welcomed with open arms and even found 1,500 new homes," said Rajkumari.

Karthick, a filmmaker from Chennai, has a diploma in air-conditioning. Priya from Erode, and Sudha, Raju and Sona Sampath from Coimbatore are trained video-graphers and have together made a 15-minute film - "Nalladoru Samudayatrikku Nangalum" - on inclusiveness.

Priya, 20, from South Arcot is a trained caterer and currently provides work to aravani community members. Amba, 40, from Washermanpet has stopped peddling sex to become a tailor and Ramya is working at a call centre after com
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