Loud thumping beats and dusty roads lead to an Anganwadi centre in Odisha's Kandhamal district, where Pinky, 18, and her friend Devyanshi are dancing to the Bollywood song Chamma Chamma without a care in the world. They are reeling in the thumkas without missing a beat. Dancing, dressing up, putting on make-up are things that Pinky loves doing and these were the same things that socially isolated her. Pinky's coming out story as a trans woman is one of inspiration and courage.
Her transition started happening when she was 8-9 years old. "She started dressing up like a girl and would copy us. She liked applying lipstick, putting mehndi on her hands. People started questioning her behaviour by the time she turned 10," said Hemalini Naik, an Anganwadi teacher.
"My brother would beat me up asking why I am dressed like that. But those were my natural instincts; I couldn't leave them," she said.
Pinky started attending meetings conducted under Save the Children's Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights project in Odisha. Through these meetings, she learned more about her body, personal hygiene and nutrition. The core idea of this project was to empower adolescents to enhance their knowledge and uphold their rights, promote their well-being and have a smooth transition from puberty to adulthood.
"People started calling me kinnara, chakka, some even called us sex workers. We have the right to live just like the other boys and girls. We have the right to live in society with respect. I don't want to listen to what others say; through education, I want to live life on my own terms," she said.
Pinky started helping her mother in the kitchen and doing household chores and slowly earned her support. She started bringing in money through her dance shows. Today, she has her family's and community's support.
Apart from her dance and jatra shows, her friends, make-up videos and the latest fashion trends keep her busy. But she wants to join the police force. "I want to do something for my country."
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