Aizya Naaz Joshi: Only transsexual to be selected among 30 other women in the Miss World Diversity 2019 in Mauritius on August 4
A Trans mom and the first Indian Transsexual person to bag Miss Diversity International pageant, competing with natural born women, Miss World Diversity 2017 and 2018, actor, pageant director and model, all rolled into one. This Trans gender woman from Delhi is representing 1.4 billion population of her country at Miss World Diversity 2019 on August 4. In fact, she is the only Transsexual to be selected among thirty other women in this competition. That is Aizya (Naaz) Joshi for you.
At the time of winning the pageant last year, Naaz had urged student community to work towards global peace and look beyond the realms of the country. “Our colours might be different, but what we need to keep in mind is that we are all human beings. Therefore, we need to work in tandem and strive for creating a peaceful environment.”
During the pageant, Naaz pinned flags belonging to 22 nations. Naaz struggled her way to reach the heights she had scaled so far. She faced sexual abuse from her cousin (maternal uncle’s son) when she grew up. In addition to that, Naaz also had to work as a bar dancer to pay her school fees. Naaz, meaning pride in Urdu and Hindi, was born a boy in an East Delhi home (Shahdara). Born to a Hindu-Muslim family, right from tender age, she knew what she was. Her childhood was fraught with humiliation and exploitation.
When she showed feminine traits, people mocked at her and made fun of her, wherever she went. Apparently, there was a big contradiction between her mind, her heart and her body and the way she used to behave. And the confusion continued for many years. While the looks were deceptive and Naaz looked like a perfect young guy, but her mind was that of a woman. So, the identities were all mixed up in her mind and head. Often, she felt that she was a gay and at other times, she felt that she was a bisexual as well. And at other times, she felt just plain different.
When Naaz became an embarrassment for the family, she was forcefully sent to Malad back in 1986 in Mumbai from the capital city of Delhi, at the age of six, to stay in her maternal uncle’s house. Her own cousin in Mumbai sexually abused Naaz, when other family members went out. Often that boy used to bring in his friends too to abuse her. At 35, Naaz recalled all the past incidents with a pinch of sadness. Naaz was not only sexually abused by her cousin but in order to pay her school fees, she was forced to take up a job in a way side cafeteria. Her routine was like this. In the morning session, Naaz used to attend classes and by noon, she would visit the cafeteria, washed the vessels and served food to people who visited the cafeteria to eat food. But Naaz made sure that she was going to be firm on her identity as a girl and wore skirts only while attending school and also working in the cafeteria. From the Dhaaba, she got in touch with many trans gendered people, who were either eking out a living out of begging on the streets or they were indulging in prostitution.
When Naaz was taunted at home, school and work place, she decided to get out of that place and at the age of eleven, Naaz just left home and she met a trans woman from Kinnar community, who was a dancer at a local bar. Eventually, the trans woman got Naaz the job of a dancer at the bar, where the latter continued to work for almost six years. Naaz continued her studies with the income she got from the bar. The bar which she served offered her a place to stay and they also provided food.
Naaz successfully finished her schooling. As a dancer, Naaz became a rage in the dance bar, where she danced to the lilting tune of Bollywood actor Sridevi. Naaz was very fond of the late actor and she learned the nuances of Sridevi’s choreographic skills. As the clientele who visited the bar came from all walks of life, somehow, one of the regulars, having noticed her dance skills and her taste for wonderful attires, suggested her to pursue a course on fashion designing at NIFT. Gaining admission in the NIFT was a nightmare for Naaz as there was no preference given to the transgenders back then. There was no third gender back then as the SC judgement came later. Naaz was left with only option of gaining admission by declaring that she is a male. One of the pre-condition before Naaz was enrolled in the NIFT was that she was asked to dress up like a male, which she followed. So, keeping her employment goals in mind, Naaz dressed up like a boy and attended the classes. To pay fees, she worked at McDonald’s and Dominos outlets in the capital city. After the course, in order to keep herself afloat, Naaz joined a massage parlour, where she was forced to undergo physical abuse. Under the garb of running massage parlours, these institutions across the nook and corners of Delhi ran prostitution joints. As that was her only source of income, Naaz took up the profession. Despite subjecting herself into prostitution, Naaz came out with flying colours when the result of NIFT came, she became a topper.
Due to her gender issue, wherever she worked, Naaz had incompatibility issues and had to leave the job. At 21, Naaz served big brands such as Ritu Kumar and Ritu Beri. Eventually, she had to leave because of the gender issue. In spite of her ups and downs in her career, Naaz managed to pursue MBA in Marketing stream from IMT Ghaziabad through correspondence course. She was forced to choose a correspondence course, as Naaz was denied regular admission due to the gender issue again. Naaz faced humiliation wherever she went. She was taunted by people by calling names such as Chakka, Mamu, Hijda and what not. People on the streets threw amorous glances as many made sexual advances as well. When she got traumatized on a regular basis, she resolved to undergo the gender reassignment procedure. In 2013, Naaz underwent the surgery and finally her body synced with her feminine soul.
Much to her relief, NALSA judgement came on April 15, 2014 officially recognizing transgender community as third gender. Rishi Taneja also made a biopic on Naaz. She also took up modelling and acting and there too she faced sexual discrimination. Naaz received many roles in Bollywood, but the offers were all attached with strings. She was asked to portray roles with skimpy cloths, which she refused to budge. Naaz is very choosy, when it comes to taking up meaty roles without any pre-condition.
Back in 2012, when Donald Trump, who promoted Miss Universe Pageant, brought in a liberal rule allowing transsexuals to take part in the competition. When the news came, Naaz had decided to try her hand in modelling as well. So, in 2018, Naaz participated in the Miss World Diversity in Dubai, competing with 22 women contestants and became the first Indian transsexual Miss World Diversity. And that is not all. Naaz also became first Indian transsexual woman to come on the cover of a popular magazine. In addition to that, Naaz also became the first trans-woman to endorse a sanitary napkin brand, Klaren. Naaz is happy about more and more transgender people being accepted in terms of employment in Government as well as private sector. She feels more private institutions should consider employing members from the LGBTQ community so that the transgender community can lead a life with dignity.
In an exclusive interview given to The Indian News Editor-in-Chief Jayashankar Menon, Naaz said, “I am an ordinary transgender from the trans phobic city called Delhi. I have been struggling for an identity not just for me but even for the community that I belong to.”
While talking about her adolescence and the perennial confusion, Naaz says, “I was confused. When people mocked at me, I used to come home and weep real bad. I used to lock myself up inside the room and often pop up sleeping pills and crash off.”
As far as her education was concerned, Although, Naaz passed out of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, but her choice of staying true to herself meant no design house of repute hired her. “The moment I mention my gender as Third Gender, they refused to take interview. In many an instance, they never called me for an interview.”
Her choice of staying a woman came with a heavy price. She was out on the road, Naaz did whatever she could for her survival. People mocked at her and termed as a Hijda, biological males who identify themselves as women.
“Sex trade will be the last option for any person. Rightly so, that was my last option too. Everyday, I had to go through this trauma. I was forced to take up this trade in a massage parlour, where all sorts of men used to visit. “I did that because of my majboori (necessity) and it was a tough time. I had all sorts of people coming in there and from cleaner to washer men. I used to be trapped in that place from morning to evening. It was around this time that Naaz allowed Rishi Taneja to capture her life in a series of black and white. The fashion photographer who had spent years looking at and defining beauty and new lessons to learn. As she spent two winters following Naaz around the streets, his camera captured the grit and the grind that often defines many like Naaz and their lives of poverty and abuse. Even Taneja has mentioned about the claustrophobic dingy eight rooms divided by thin sheets as walls, with greasy walls and people having sex in all these rooms. He tells in an interview given to a television channel that when he froze a frame of Naaz lying on hospital type bed in that dingy room with another person having sex with her, her stare the fashion photographer could capture from an elevated place said it all that she was not one bit happy about what she was forced to do. Reminiscing about those dark days, Naaz says that she had in fact, forgotten the whole episode, nevertheless she allowed that photograph be taken just to prove a point that what kind of trauma transgenders had to undergo in their lives and also to send across a subtle message, there are ways for transgenders to come out of that and begin a more meaningful life.
By early 2014, Naaz was out of her home and a member now of the transgender community, unrecognised by the world and only worthy of dancing, clapping, prostitution or begging. In a landmark judgement in April 2014, the Supreme Court recognised transgender as the third gender, hoping it would ensure education and job opportunities and further bring down discrimination.
“The judgement only says that the terms such as hijdas and eunuchs and it is about bringing a change in mindsets of the people and the people should look at us as the persons we are not that the kind of gender we possess. Days after the SC judgement, in the legal status as active citizens the thirdness exemplified both. They are continuing social exclusion, but at the same time, the ability to transcend the traditional binaries of gender.
“Sometimes when I travel by bus and the conductor comes up to me and says, Madam, no need to pay money and I need your blessing. What blessing he is talking about. Those customs of begging on the street by transgenders set the bad precedent. The walk through the streets, clapping and taking money from people and blessing them. People need to have education and they need to know that we wanted to be recognised as third gender and treat us like that and not treated like the way side hijdas. The SC judgement just cannot change the people’s attitude at all. A few weeks after the judgement was pronounced, the UPSC told the Court that it cannot include transgender as the third gender for applying for civil services examinations as the category was not yet clearly defined by the SC. In fact, the use of the term, Eunuch in the judgment itself sounds derogatory. There is no separate place for transgenders in any of the public places like the wash rooms or a separate ward in hospitals. There will be washrooms for either women or men, but not for the transgenders.
Last time, Naaz was there in 2007 and she was crowned as Miss Queen Mauritius. “Being the only transsexual in the competition, again brings in the challenge and responsibility on my shoulders. Therefore, I am hoping my country people cheer for me much more than last time,” Naas expressed hope.
“I represent India once again at Miss World Diversity on August 4, 2019 at the world finals and I happen to be the only tran sexual across the globe to be selected among 30 other women in this competition,” Naaz said and added, “Hope you all shall cheer for me and will not get this news unnoticed this time.”
Talking about the skeptics, Naaz says, “Those who are trans phobic must get their treatment done. Rather than calling us from the different world, I have a question to those skeptics, have they ever looked in the mirror? Are they the good human beings by discriminating transgenders? What are we? Who are we? We have worked hard and sans support from either the Government or having basic constitutional rights that others have or for that matter, the much needed family support, we have reached to a level where I celebrate myself for being who I am. None of these skeptics have the right to question me about my decisions. How, why and where do I pay my bills from? no matter I buy my crowns or I win them, that is also is none of their concern. These skeptics call themselves PhDs, Doctors, Engineers, Entrepreneurs and what not….but if you don’t know how to give respect to others, as far as I am concerned, they are big zeros.”
What is the message Naaz would like to tell her fellow transgender friends? “What is most important in this world today is believing in your decisions. I have made many decisions in my life, whether good or bad, I have decided to keep my relationships with people I love and not the people I need in my life whether personally or professionally. What is more, I don’t regret in taking any of my life’s call. Ugly, good, bad or worse whatever the consequences were, I have never been regretful and apologetic. My aim is to live for myself and the ones who need me in their lives, I always remember one very good saying by Rakhi Sawant ‘Aao toh welcome, jao toh bheed kam’.”
About her previous win and the discrimination she had to face, Naaz lamented, “I have been struggling for an identity not just for me but even for the community that I belong to. Last year too, I won the contest in Dubai, nevertheless the buzz I was expecting to be India’s first trans international beauty queen, I was deprived of because this news was not celebrated in the country. So, I make my way again in this competition thinking that if I win again in Mauritius, I can at least become a voice of millions of transgender women across the globe.”
On the importance of having just the right mentor, Naaz says, “You don’t actually need a big or small publication house to make you beauty queen, you become a successful beauty queen with right mentor and guide. Suppose, if any one promises you a movie after winning a beauty pageant is lying because none can force a producer or director to cast you in a movie, unless you fit in the role or for that matter, you have the requisite acting skills. Only then you can clear the auditions. How fake can people go to promote their kukaan of Miss or Mrs India. Only because we women are fond of crowns doesn’t mean we should start living in a fairy tale. Beauty pageants are the platform that not only help you to understand yourself better but also gives you a chance to the media to write about you in your city state or region. Therefore, girls, you can be actors and models but not just by winning the pageant, had this been true we have had one super star every year from India’s biggest pageant Femina Miss India.”
On the subject of trans empowerment, Naaz has this to say, “On one hand, we demand the trans empowerment and on other hand we see differences between the community. Many of the biggies in the community don’t feel happy when the next generation of trans girls are struggling to make their way harder in the society. I am supposed to represent always the good side of my people, but I also believe that I must also expose the reality. Unless trans community support each other, nothing will change for us.”
While shedding light on the challenges she had to face, Naaz goes into philosophical mode and says, “Umbrella can’t stop the rain. Nevertheless, it make us stand in the rain. Therefore, confidence may not bring success, but gives the power to face any challenge in life.”
What would a girl do if she finds out the man she was courting relationship for two years, got engaged to, and one fine evening, she calls him up and a woman picks up the call and tells that she was his wife and they were married for three months, naturally, any girl will get shattered, broken, hurt and will have turbulent mind to end her life. Probably, she might even sink into the quicksand of depression. Ask Naaz, she has a different take in her life. “Cheats exist. Does than mean I stop living my life? I am good and kind hearted. Obviously, the loss is not mine. I will get many men in my life who will proudly hold my hands. But, he will not get a girl who loved him truly,” Naaz points out and adds, “Positive thinking is the only way out to come out of any sadness in life.”
Naaz also has strong view about the relationship. She says that the more you run behind someone, the more you lose your dignity, respect and eventually him. So, the pragmatic approach is to set him free. And if he comes back, he is yours. If he does not, then you will have to conclude that he never was.
What are the changes she predicts in the beauty pageant going forward, Naaz says, “Some people love the glitz and lights, they love artificial jewelry. For them American diamonds are more important than the Gold. They are mesmerized by the attitude and tantrums thrown on them. They will consider you celebrity only if you show them that you are unavailable…. specially in our pageant. MIHM 2020 will have makeover, one of the biggest makeover will be eliminating their queries over WhatsApp. Second major change will be just two winners one in regular category and one in classic category, because as their directors it is easy to work with two winners than nine of them. The third major change will be girls coming through only auditions none coming direct. If they miss the chance in auditions they shall not be entertained either. You asked for it. So let it be so. Focus on quality and not quantity. So MIHM 2020 here you go.”
Stating that the trans-women are the form of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Naaz says, “If anyone thinks we are the weakest gender or sex, must think again. A man has power of a man and a woman has hers. We as ardhnareshwar we have power of both the genders we are as humble as mother Parvati, we love like her, but when some one touches us the wrong way, then even God can’t save that person from our wrath. I don’t know about others, but try to touch me the wrong way, I will make your life hell. Trust me. Don’t call for a kaal. Be polite when I am, show me the rude behaviour and your existence will become horrible till you are on planet earth.”
Should she be shrewd cunning pageant director who is respected by all or sweet honest humble the way she is? “Most of the time I have been taken for granted. I think, I choose the earlier one because if that is the way people respect you as directors and celebrity, then let it be that one,” Naaz says.
How will be your reaction about your detractors who go to town bitching about you? “All your good karma and bad karma are recorded. Some women aspire to be beauty queens and they don’t even have manners to talk to some one. Forget a director, but they are mean and bitchy women. Best is let them bark and you just listen and then God will take your revenge on them. But if you are equally rude to people then there will be no difference between you and them.”
As Naaz is also into beauty industry, what is her take on fairness creams? “Why do we still run behind fairness. Are we not beautiful when we are dark and dusky? I am proud to be dusky. I feel proud of myself. My advice would be to stop buying fairness creams. This is the year of black women, first time Miss International Queen is a black, now Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America are black again. I will not be surprised if this year Miss Universe and Miss World are bagged by black women. It’s a big lesson for people in India who think fair is beauty, it’s time to say goodbye to fairness creams.”
What is her advice to those upcoming fashion models? Naaz says, “Imperfection is beautiful. But it is not in the field of glamour and glitz. You are being judged here everyday. So, work on your flaws.”
Naaz has also adopted a baby girl and she now she is a proud mother too. About motherhood, Naaz says, “Motherhood is the most beautiful experience in this world. If I have ever felt important to someone’s life, is my daughter. The smile she gives me when I return home after work, relieves all my worries. Children are angel in our lives. And I would tell every transgender woman to either adopt a kid or keep the sperms saved before the transition. So that you can have a baby of your own. If you think you can’t afford to go for IVF treatments then adopt an orphan. Give him or her all the love you have. You can become someone’s world and that some one can be your world…..”
Of overcoming the obstacles in her life, Naaz says, “It’s not disabilities we are born with, but it’s the ever fighting spirit in you that takes you places. I remember there was no one standing by me when I was struggling. Even today, I fight without support of anyone. My family is my heart, mind and soul. And the God Almighty. At times, I see no way out, coming out of difficulties that I have to face but then I pray, and my prayers are always answered by my Almighty. He who has stood by me forever and took good care of me, as my father, shall show me the way to my further new dreams and aspirations. On my end I can only work hard, the results are His.”
About the film acting career offers, Naaz says, “I would never want to work in Bollywood or Tollywood as a female lead. I want to do substantial roles which are written for Trans women. And till the time I don’t get that powerful script, I will not accept any offer.”
Life should be a celebration. Naaz says, “Whether others celebrate of being who you are, but you can always celebrate of your own existence. You are special to so many people in their lives. Give importance to your family than the plastic smiles. Bring smiles to the poor and the needy. Stop comparing yourself to others and stop being in pain because of others. You are your best friend. You don’t have to be a model or actor to be celebrated. You are a mother, daughter, wife and celebrate each day of your life as there is no tomorrow.”
What is her view on the so-called gender disparity prevalent in India? “There are children who are born different than the so called conventional normal children. First of all, there is nothing that is called normal or abnormal in human beings. If some one is born differently, believe me, that some one will possess another quality that will be much higher than others. We the transgenders who according to some morons do not fit in conventional men and women, are multi-talented with extra intelligent mind. During my auditions on May 1, I was the only trans woman who was selected from 100 actors from Delhi auditions who were Male and female. The director did not expect that a trans woman can actually act. I am not supposed to disclose the name of the production house and the director, but whether I get to do the role finally or not, I am happy that I made my trans community proud of me, by defeating some senior actors in the industry, who wanted to do this trans protagonist role. We trans girls can act, provided we get some training. I want to thank my mentor Faraz Mariam Arif Ansari Ji, that in six days, he has trained me so well, that today at least I can stand tall and say proudly that yes I am an actor.”
Naaz is a proud winner of several accolades. What is the level of expectation people have on her? “We as title holders are always being judged by the people. But why? We don’t have to owe an explanation as what we do, and how we do. As a title holder from past three years, Miss Republic International Beauty Ambassador, Miss World Diversity 2017 and Miss World Diversity 2018. I have been doing my duties towards society extremely well. Well to begin with, some of the people who don’t even know P of pageant alleged me of wearing my crown and sash everywhere. Well, the organisation that has reposed so much faith in me, I need to promote them. I am their Ambassador for the next one year. The second issue people have is with my proactive videos and photographs. To all the people who don’t know shooting and don’t know about skin colour body suits or nipple pads, they are judging me. OMG! And worse still is people who have not achieved anything in their lives they are judging me. All the boys and girls before you judge me. Just see what I have achieved and what you have achieved, and then pass on the negative comments, last but not the least, a woman who wears a plunding neck line is not available. Please keep that in mind.”
About the rights of trans women, Naaz says, “I do have a right to vote, but why shall I? No candidate yet addressed the problems and solutions of our marginalised community. Only handful of us, who have achieved little in our lives have achieved with no support of government. Supreme court every now and then tells private and public sectors on work for us. why these people don’t work? So much that we the trans community don’t even have public washrooms in the airport or any public place. Such a basic need is not fulfilled. Imagine the plight of our trans sisters on roads begging, why we don’t have job opportunities for them? Why we the trans community are still considered untouchables? People in power are ashamed to acknowledge us. Till when are we not going to be considered as humans? Trans rights are human rights. I shall vote only when some one promises that he shall work for our community or anyone who has worked for my community in the past. Also I want to bring in here a point that Indian film industry must give roles to trans people and not to CIS man and a CIS woman. They should be boycotted and even in comedy shows like Kapil Sharma. The characters who play trans characters must be replaced by real trans actors.”
One of the biggest pageant for trans women world over is Miss International Queen, and for the first time a black trans girl from USA won it, and she did look like a transgender. Why in Indian trans pageants, the winners are expected to look like girls? “If the organisers want women look like transgenders they should rather do contest for women, aren’t we living in hypocrite society, where we are showing that we are working on transgender empowerment and give importance to female looking contestants. Let us be the transgenders we are, look at the trans women who are below poverty line, they don’t have enough money to buy branded make up, forget that they sleep on the floors. If you wish to work on trans empowerment, and organise events, then there should be some percentage of trans women from the streets and put them on ramp. I understand there is a fee structure but between 30 contestants you can easily accommodate three trans girls free of cost. And this is not for one particular pageant I am talking about neither I am hinting at anyone. My message is for every organiser today who organise these events.”
How well people receive your tough stand on discrimination and inequality? Naaz says, “When you know you are right, then stand for it. Let people call you insane or drama queen. I always raise my voice against the discrimination and inequality within the society. Transgenders are not aliens. Start accepting them as part of your society. Give them equal respect as you would to others. There is a man, there is a woman, teach your children that there is a third gender. If you need a picture of what third gender looks like you are always welcome to show my pictures to your kids. I am a proud transgender and even in my next life I would like to be one. People ask me to go for facial feminisation surgery to look like a girl but I am really sorry, I know I look like a transgender and I want to look like a transgender.”
There are inherent responsibility vested with human beings in terms of protecting and contributing to the society. Naaz says, “For every human being, it is important to take care of the society. Whenever I take out money from ATM or swipe my card, I never take my paper copy. It is my initiative to save trees and I don’t take poly bags from general stores. I take a small cloth bag from home and buy my grocery. This came to me when I first became a Beauty Queen, United Nations Ambassador. So, if you join the right pageant, even if you have to pay for the fee, you learn a lot and this sense of responsibility can only come in India if you join in Mrs India Homemakers or Queen Universe, if you wish to be a better person, join our pageants today.”
While touching upon the mindset of the people in India, Naaz says, “Everyone has different perspective to see life. Some see it half empty and some half filled. It is not the problem of the water or the glass. Rather, it is the problem of the person who is seeing it. I think people who are intelligent will understand what I am referring to. In a picture you see nudity, pornography or anything that meets your eye. Why can’t we see women who love their bodies and flaunt it as their Expression of love towards their body. Why do we need to tag them as #Sluts? And why this doesn’t go with men who expose on social media, they are called studs. Are we actually living in a free India? We all need to free our minds and should stop being judgmental towards others. At the face of it we are living in 21st century but even today the Seeta, the woman has to undergo a fire test to prove her innocence. Why men don’t pass through this test. If a night lady is out, she is characterless, a man out is ambitious and hardworking. Whoa… I love being in this stereotypical society where discrimination goes in between men and women then what are we transgenders? I think it will take another 20 centuries to change the mindset of people in India and specially north India.”
People often compliment Naaz for her eyes. She signs off by saying, “My eyes will help someone see the world after I am gone.”