Transgender Activist Anjali Rimi Vowed To Never Hide Her Identity

Anjali Rimi, is the president of the only trans nonprofit organization Parivar, a movement to fight the injustice that people of color are subjected to in a white-dominated, patriarchal, and heteronormative society.

[ Anjali Rimi, is a trans-rights activists who currently resides in the USA, and works for uplifting the voices with help of her non-profit, Parivar. ]

Nov 20 is celebrated as the day of Transgender Remembrance in honor of the lives of trans people lost to anti-trans violence and hatred. This year, the much-deserved celebration turned into a nightmare.

On the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a 22-year-old gunman killed five people and fatally wounded several others at the celebrated nightclub Q for LGBTQA+ people in Colorado Springs.

Sadly, this heinous crime reminds us that it was not that long ago that a gunman killed 49 LGBTQ people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Transgender and nonbinary Americans are gaining visibility in the media and among the public. A 2022 Pew Research Center survey finds that 1.6% of U.S. adults are transgender or nonbinary – their gender differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. One in five says they know someone who does not identify as a man or woman.

On Nov 16, 2022, Congress endorsed Marriage Act which would provide federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages, with a bipartisan 62-37 vote in the senate moving it closer to law.

On the one hand, new laws are introduced to protect the rights of LGBTQ people; on the other, several politicians are crying blood, vilifying and dehumanizing LGBTQA+ people. A study by UCLA law school found that transgender people are four times more likely than anyone else to experience violent victimization, like rape or assault.

According to FBI data, there has been a 51% increase in hate crimes against transgender people in the last year. Human Rights Campaign notes that 84% of violence against the transgender community targets people of color, specifically trans women.

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However, experts say those statistics do not capture the full extent of the issue. Desi transgender people particularly feel vulnerable in the south Asian diaspora, which lacks in fighting its transphobia. The majority do not support the marginalized desi transgender in the community who remain invisible.

Transphobia forces many transgender people to hide their identities

Anjali Rimi, a south Asian transgender activist in the bay area, remembers the mass shooting of transpeople in 2016. She vowed not to hide her trans identity anymore because it helped her realize there are actual lives at stake and how vital intersectional LGBT advocacy is.

As a researcher, teacher, and ally of LGBTQ+ people, I would like to highlight the humanitarian values of desi transgender people based on research this summer in 2022.

I worked with a dozen high school interns from all over the country, including one from Istanbul and the other from Mostar, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. We did a storytelling project on the intergenerational relationships between adult children and their parents and how they have been affected by covid.

This project was offered under the Science Internship Program (SIP) at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The high schoolers interviewed the transgender activist Anjali Rimi, which was a life-transforming experience for them.

Anjali Rimi, is fighting the white patriarchal system

Anjali Rimi (she/ her), in her early forties, is the president of the only trans-Bay Area nonprofit organization Parivar, a movement to fight the injustice that people of color are subjected to in a white-dominated, patriarchal, and heteronormative society.

In 2021, Rimi received Sewa Excellence Award from the Nonprofit Sewa International for her outstanding work on helping the transgender community in the bay area.

Besides several accolades, e.g., the Champion of Change award, she was the first South Asian woman, a transgender person, to be recognized as the Pride month Honoree in the California state assembly in 2022. Rimi’s leadership has come with many sacrifices, hurdles, and struggles.

The high school interns interviewed Rimi to learn about her desi transgender identity, struggles, and responsibility towards her parents, even though she lives in an individualistic society.

Rimi’s family relationship as she was growing up

Rimi was born to a lower-middle-class family in Hyderabad. She realized very young that she was a female trapped in a male body and did not fill the “male role” in the household, often enjoying more feminine roles like cooking.

Because of this, she was not included in family events and was discriminated against at home. One instance is vivid in Rimi’s memory.

Once, her mom came home to find her dressed in a bra and feminine clothes and immediately objected — she was scared that her child would become a sex worker like many other transgender people abandoned by the world.

Her mother was her support

Her mother was very understanding and let her dress up in the house, so nobody would see and object to her. One day her dad came home and found out. He beat Anjali up and told her to become a man.

That led to Rimi running away and staying with the hijras before her mother brought her home. She told her, “If you want to be yourself, you need to become independent and study well and get a job.” She took that to heart and focused on school and work to make her parents proud.

Rimi faced abuse not only at home but also from her school and community. She was sexually abused and raped twice in the same year, at the end of high school. Rimi remembers how she was beaten up, thrown in the back of a water cooler, and left for days.

Rimi’s sexual abuse by the community members brought shame and humiliation to her family, her father lost his job, and the family had to move away and hold her responsible for it.

Her father never supported her or acknowledged her identity. In contrast, her mom was sympathetic and wanted Rimi to have a successful career. She was scared that otherwise, Rimi would end up on the streets.

Rimi’s mother, Gauri, realized it was unsafe for her in India. Rimi’s brother was already in the United States but wanted nothing to do with her. Gauri sold bajjis (snack food) and got rid of her gold jewelry to send Rimi to the United States on a student visa. Rimi arrived in the a month before 9/11 and understood what it means to be a victim of racism.

While in this country, she had no contact with her parents for 17 years but still supported them financially. Rimi’s higher education degree made her financially independent and enabled her to help her parents financially. Ultimately, she sponsored them to join her. Just before the Pandemic, her parents went for a visit to India.

They were stuck there and got covid. Rimi’s father lost his mental stability, was hospitalized, and became delirious. In the thick of covid, Rimi went to India and was surprised that her family members did not come forward to help her or her parents.

However, her transgender community in Hyderabad enabled her to bring her parents to the United States. She was grateful. Even though she had such an estranged relationship with her father, she brought them back to the United States and had to admit him to a hospital in the bay area. Her parents recovered, and they both live with her now.

Why did Anjali Rimi go back to India?

My students were curious. Why did she risk her life to go to India? Rimi explained that it was her sense of duty to her parents and empathy towards her fellow human beings.

Rimi says her relationship with her parents has been strengthened during the Pandemic. It gave them a chance to grow closer together and reconnect with each other.

This experience has made her father change his attitude toward the trans community. He is no longer abusive or hostile toward her like before. He realized that his family in India shunned him during covid.

However, the local hijra community — Rimi’s trans sister, trans doctor, and nurses were the people who came to help them.

Rimi says, “When people of his blood would not even touch him, trans people were the ones who showed up to help.”

Covid opened Anjali Rimi’s eyes to new realisations

Rimi says  that during covid, “I learned that people would choose political ideology and fear of differences over human life experience.” Covid has emphasized inequalities like Asian hate, Islamophobia, and anti-Black sentiment here in the United States.

Experts believe the spike in violence mirrors an increase in controversial political rhetoric around LGBTQ+ issues, like the “Do not Say Gay” bill recently made into a law in Florida.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis says, “The bill prohibits classroom instruction about sexuality or things like ‘transgender’ in K-3 classrooms.”

As if not saying gay is going to solve the problem. After the bill became law, social media has been full of hateful messages against LGBTQ people.

People tend to follow their leaders, becoming more divisive and condemning transgender people. Even though over 70 percent population in the United States accepts LGBTQ people, the politicians to promote their agenda are not responding to public opinion.

The lesson we learn here is to be accepting of people who are different from us — race, religion, language, sexuality – and try to see a common humanity that binds us together.

Image source: Anjali Rimi’s Instagram, edited on CanvaPro

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About the Author

Annapurna Pandey

Annapurna Devi Pandey teaches Cultural Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She holds a PhD in sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and was a postdoctoral fellow in social anthropology at Cambridge read more...

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