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These Pictures Give Voice to a Transwoman’s Assertion of Her Right to Equality

When Unconvential Things Happen in Conventional Settings: Gorgeous Transwoman’s Photographs With Her Husband

In the middle of such tightness around who can marry whom, where and how one can marry, and what kind of marriages are given social and legal sanction, we came across the story of Madhuri Sarode, a transwoman, transgender rights activist and classical dancer, and Jay Sharma, a machine operator in a steel goods manufacturing unit, who married each other in December last year.

Madhuri is probably the first transperson in India to have an open wedding ceremony. Their wedding was not the hush-hush affair that usually takes place in transgender communities. From sending invitation cards to holding a reception, Madhuri ensured having everything organised as per wedding traditions, along with an extensive wedding photo album.

Having met as strangers on Facebook, Jay and Madhuri have come a long way in accepting each other’s realities and having faith that they would stand by each other in difficult times. Nevertheless, the journey hasn’t been easy for either of them. In an interview, Jay shares that he too has had misconceptions around transgender persons and communities, which he was able to do away with once he got to know Madhuri and her world. He studies the subject in order to educate himself better and be able to convince his parents about accepting their marriage. Madhuri shares that it took her some time to believe that a dating proposal coming from a stranger on Facebook could turn into a long-term romantic relationship.

Marriage, to Madhuri, is a way of asserting her rights as a transwoman. Given legal sanction under the 2014 NALSA judgement, she has decided to get her marriage registered as a transwoman. She argues that when a law allows someone the right to vote, apply for a passport, a driving license, and seek admission in educational institutions, it should also allow for the right to get married. Apparently Jay wasn’t initially insistent on getting a marriage certificate, but was ready to support her in what she believes in and fights for. He says, “I told her, ‘Don’t you believe that I will marry you and we will live together? Then why bother about the certificate?’ But she is different from the rest. She doesn’t just live for herself. It’s what made me fall for her in the first place.”

In this month’s Brushstrokes, we feature some pictures of this couple taken by photographer Anu Pattnaik. When unconventional things happen in conventional settings, perhaps this is what it looks like:

All images by Anu Pattnaik

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