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Having won Miss World Diversity, the third time, Aizya Naaz Joshi wants to help the transgender community by pushing for transgender women's marriages.
Having won Miss World Diversity, the third time, Aizya Naaz Joshi wants to help the transgender community by pushing for transgender women’s marriages.
Meet Aizya Naaz Joshi – India’s first international transgender model to win the Miss World Diversity crown.
The event was held on 3 August 2019 in Port Louis, Mauritius. This is the third time Naaz has won this contest.
Born in 1984 in Shahdara, East Delhi to a Punjabi father and Muslim mother, Naaz’s journey had been incredible and full of obstacles since the start. Naaz and her parents knew she was different. They were aware that she was born with a soul and heart of a woman in the body of a man.
Tired of the brutal bullying in schools and gossip Naaz’s parents sent her to stay with her uncle in Mumbai. However, for Naaz the ordeal had just begun. While Naaz’s mother regularly sent money for her education, she was denied it by her aunt. Naaz was made to work in a dhaba to sponsor her own education.
When she was 11, her cousin and his friends gang raped her. The incident left her gravely injured and psychologically traumatised. So much so that she had to be hospitalised. To add to her misery, her uncle and aunt asked her to keep quiet and forget about the episode.
It was at the hospital that she met a transwoman who gave her the option of begging but young Naaz refused. Instead, she asked for a decent job so that she could complete her education. The transwoman managed to find a job at a local dance bar for her where Naaz could be herself and dress like a woman.
Mornings were for schools, afternoons for tuitions and homework. And it was at night she would dance in the bar to accumulate money for her education. Her stint in the dance bar was for eight years starting in 1998 to 2006.
In 2006, she met the late supermodel Viveka Babajee. Meeting Viveka proved to be a turning point in her life. Viveka had faith that Naaz had the spark in her and would make her name as a top model. Viveka went ahead and mentored Naaz encouraging her to study further.
Naaz enrolled herself at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi and topped her class. Though Viveka’s sudden death, in 2010, left Naaz devastated it did not deter her from completing her education. Getting her degree too, was a challenge for Naaz because she had to work at a food joint to fund the last year of her degree.
After getting her degree, she went on to work with celebrated designers Ritu Kumar and Ritu Beri. However, the cruel society rendered the harshest blows on her, and she had to quit her job because her colleagues refused to take instructions from a transwoman.
Kudos to Naaz that she still managed a job at a massage parlour and initiated a sex re-assignment procedure in year 2011. She underwent hormone therapy for two years and the final sex change operation in year 2013.
In 2014, the photographer Rishi Taneja met her through a common friend. Taneja ended up featuring her in a biopic that showed her struggles. And since then there was no looking back.
Naaz went on to win several accolades and also appeared on the covers of several cosmopolitan magazines. It was after her first sensational win at the Miss Diversity pageant that Naaz decided to dedicate her life to social causes.
She actively works for the betterment of the transgender community. And has joined hands with several NGO’s and participates in raising funds for children afflicted with HIV/AIDS. She also works on menstrual hygiene campaigns for the rural women.
On working on activism Naaz says “I want to use my crown to work with governments, for example, on the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019. The government drafted this bill without even consulting our community. This is not done. I also want to work on pushing for same-sex marriages, and transwoman marriages.”
“If Tamil Nadu has accepted transgender brides, why can’t this practice be applicable all over India? Yes, political parties have given tickets to transgender people during elections, but that’s very different from working for them. One day, I would like to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and address our concerns,” she continued.
For Naaz employment matters a lot. She has seen struggle and wants to end it by creating employment for her community along with that for under privileged rural women. Naaz plans to set up a computer training centre where women can learn and obtain skills suitable for employment.
So here’s a lesson to learn for all of us from Naaz Joshi. Nothing could deter her from attaining her goals. She had a troubled childhood, was raped, worked in dance bar, food outlet, massage parlour, had no support from either her family or the government. However, she ultimately catapulted to victory by winning the crown of Miss Diversity contest thrice.
On being asked what advice would she like to give to those parents whose children suffer from gender identity crisis, Naaz smiles and asks them to cooperate and stand with their children.
Society will always find way to traumatise a person who doesn’t fall under the general gender stereotype and there is where family support counts. If the parents don’t support them, who will?
Naaz had, at one point, contemplated suicide but the beauty of life stopped her from killing herself.
Dear society, learn a lesson and lend empathy to people undergoing gender dysphoria. Ultimately it was Naaz who made India proud and one shouldn’t forget the scuffles which she faced from the society as well as her family.
Naaz is now a single mother to an eight month old daughter and stays with her parents.
Picture credits: Screenshot of Aizya Naaz Joshi during an interview
Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, an MBA in supply chain management and is engaged with a corporate sector. Her essay in the anthology “Book read more...
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