- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Random House India; Latest edition (31 August 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670089184
- ISBN-13: 978-0670089185
- Package Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.6 x 2.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #12,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Red Lipstick: The Men in My Life Hardcover – 31 Aug 2016
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About the Author
Laxmi, transgender rights activist, Hindi film actor and Bharatanatyam dancer, is a celebrity and a LGBT icon. Founder of the NGO Astitva, which works towards the support and development of sexual minorities, she is the first transgender, who went to the United Nations representing the Asia Pacific sex workers. Laxmi played a pivotal role for the recognition of hijras as the third gender in India.
Pooja Pande is a writer and editor with a keen interest in gender issues.
From the Publisher
Transcending Gender By Pooja Pande
Imagine you’re in a mall. And you really need to go. What do you do? No-brainer - you use the facilities. All malls have bathrooms!
Now imagine staring at those very bathroom doors - with their cute raja-rani icons and not knowing which one to push through. Imagine risking ridicule, being mocked, made fun of, or worse, being assaulted for choosing to use of one of those bathrooms, because the way you look, act, behave does not reflect the majority in there.
Answering nature’s call is never as dangerous or laced with humiliation as it is for a person who does not identify with the male-female gender binary that the world understands and favours.
But it doesn’t end there.
If you’re looking to book a rail ticket, wherein your only options are M and F, what would you tick on, if you weren’t comfortable with either of those identities? These are just a few of the daily life quandaries and dilemmas that people who identify as transgender come up against. Stuff that is regular for the mainstream world, banal even.
Even as the tide is turning for the better globally, India has a long way to go. We still hold onto draconian laws such as Article 377 that came into existence at the time of the British Raj, when Victorian-era prudery was eradicating freer, more open-minded civilizations, such as ironically, ours!
As a culture, a race, a species, there’s much more to be done, so much more we can do to ensure that the playing, living, loving field is a more level one. That we are free of narrow biases based on a person’s gender. So we can truly be proud to call ourselves the new citizens of the world’s largest democracy.
Let’s see this happen in the twenty-first century, so we can all live and breathe and work and play and thrive together – men, women, lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer, and all the multiple identities possible – in a global world.
And for this, we have to look in the mirror now, and start the conversation.
The revolution then won’t be far behind. Celebrating this spirit of inclusiveness and ambition is Red Lipstick: The Men in my Life, a literary-styled memoir chronicling the relationships of India’s first hijra activist. It’s a book that looks to the future – where a more vibrant, progressive, and beautiful India awaits us all.
A Conversation with Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
We caught up with the fearless, fabulous Laxmi, India’s most famous transgender activist to know more about her memoir Red Lipstick: The Men in My Life. In the freewheeling conversation that ensued, Laxmi spoke to us about sexuality, gender equality and the men and women that matter. An excerpt from an interview with the author.
Q. Sexuality is a taboo subject in India, treated with shame and often indignity, in the book you mention that you realized you were first attracted to men when you first looked at billboard that advertised men's underwear. How do you hope to help young men and women grapple with their sexuality through your story?
A. Laxmi: Sexuality is fluid, Sex is different from sexuality, one needs to find and explore one’s sexuality. I won’t agree with the term ‘sexuality is a taboo subject in India’, it is mentioned in puranic texts, there is a quote in the Manu Smriti, ‘Vikhurthi Evam Prakruthi’, people freely accepted sexuality in ancient times. It was only after our colonization by the British that we adopted a more rigid moralistic code. I would in fact suggest that we go back to our ancient culture to re-discover our roots and with it ourselves, rather than prescribe to norms set by society. Books will open the Pandora’s Box and will lead the youth on a path of discovery and self-realization.
Q. You have said time and again that your parents are your biggest support system, and it is their love and understanding that gave you the courage to face the hurdles life sent your way. What role have your parents played in your life?
A. Laxmi: See, your parents are your first teachers, they are your guiding light, the way they mould you, that’s what you turn into. I am very thankful to my parents, they have been my mentors and teachers, they have been my friends. My parents have stood by me and guided me, they have supported me in all my decisions and have trusted me unconditionally, this has been crucial to my growth.
Q. Not everyone is lucky enough to have an understanding family, many transgender kids get abandoned by their families and are forced into a life of panhandling and prostitution. How do you think parents can be better equipped to handle the pressures that comes with having transgender child? How can they be more supportive of them?
A. Laxmi: All parents need to understand that their children are their own flesh and blood, and no matter what their gender or sexual orientation, it is important to love them and accept them for who they are. We need a lot of advocacy in our current society to provide a basic understand sex, sexuality and gender, which is presently missing. As I mentioned earlier, we were under colonization for too long, we have forgotten our roots. Shikandi from the Mahabharat was brought up by his parents with love and care, we need to remind parents of this.
Q. What or who inspired you to champion for the causes of your community?
A. Laxmi: It was my fight for my existence and the manner in which society treated my community that made me take up this battle.
Q. Do you think schools, colleges and educational institutions can play a larger role in creating awareness for transgender issues? Many great movements in both India and around the world have either started on college campus.
A. Laxmi: Yes for sure, all educational institutions, from school to universities can provide basic education, which can help clear myths and misconceptions regarding the transgender community. By the Supreme Court of India Judgement in April 2014, the transgender community got legal recognition in the constitution.
UGC - University Grants Commission accepted the recommendations of the Supreme Court of India and formed a committee, which I was also part off to include transgender subject matter in curriculums, a circular to the effect was also issued. We also are now negotiating with National Education committee – NEC to include chapters on sex sexuality and gender in school education because it very important to get the basics rights. We hope that NREC will consider our request. Basic education will help the coming generation to a have better understanding about transgender communities.
Q. One of the ways in which we can ensure that interests of the transgender community are protected is by having specific laws in place, which address the needs of the community. While we have made some progress in this regard, we need to do more and on a much larger scale. How in your opinion can we make this a larger human rights issue in India?
A. Laxmi: The Government of India, after the Supreme Court of India Judgement in April 2014 has come up with ‘The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016’, this bill is possibly the least effective.
The earlier Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment - MSJE draft bill was better than the current bill presented in the parliament, it had a mention on police violence, clarification on reservation and so on. The present Transgender Bill has no provision for quota in jobs or education. The earlier draft cabinet note had a section on reservation in employment. The current bill also continues the silence on rights of transgender persons in the private sphere: marriage, adoption, inheritance etc. The role of the National Council is not at all mentioned, only its constitution is stated.
Q. Tell us about the first time you fell in love, what about him attracted you the most?
A. Laxmi: Well, you all should read my book to find out about it, for now let it remain a mystery!
Q. Who are some of the key men and women that have influenced you the most in your personal and professional journey?
A. Laxmi: Every person whom I have met has contributed to my life in some way and has helped me grow. To name a few who have immensely enriched my life: my parents especially my mom, then there is Atharv, Varsha Tai and Ashok Row Kavi, the list goes on.
Q. What are some of the enduring qualities in a person that you cherish above all and why?
A. Laxmi: Loyalty and truthfulness, because if you are truthful to yourself and loyal to self you can do no wrong to others.
Q. What is the one mantra in life that you live by?
A. Laxmi: Love yourself. Loving yourself is the biggest mantra one can have. Once you love yourself you will start loving everything else.
Q. What is the message that you would like to relay to the world through this book?
What do you hope to convey through your private revelations?
A. Laxmi: I have always felt that my life has been an open book, so people should read it. I hope that most will be able to connect with my experiences, which I speak about. I hope that this book will guide some in making better decisions about their own life.
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. Laxmi: Same as anyone else, read, write, play candy crush, watch movies, chill with friends, play a prank.
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Top customer reviews
Reading Red Lipstick is an opportunity to not just know, but see, feel and taste what it's like to live a life when you don't allow your assigned gender to become your identity. It's tremendous, what Laxmi, with author Pooja Pande, bring to life - not just men in Laxmi's life, but the confusions and contradictions that are always the real place the great battles are fought. Read this, if you want to understand your own inter-gender relationships better.
This book is a must read for every one of us, especially in India, because it addresses the root questions in each of our lives --- questions that we cannot afford to be in denial of any longer...
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