Once there was a time when Indian calendars were dominated by the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses.
Then they made way for the godlike – popular movie stars and sports stars.
Now come 2014 and the humble calendar will become another tool for social change with a unique initiative by a New Delhi-based transgender rights organization to feature Indian transgender activists, who have received very little honor in their own country so far despite their exemplary bravery in facing the stigma a traditional society still inflicts on them.
Mitr Trust was founded in the Indian capital in 2005 to tackle spreading HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, especially among transgenders, eunuchs or hijras, and men who have sex with men.
The trust says it seeks to empower all MSMs/TGs/hijras, irrespective of class, caste, creed and race so that they can act with responsibility and undertake to protect themselves and their sexual partners, be the other men, women, transgender, or hijra, against stigma and discrimination.
As part of working towards mainstreaming and highlighting community issues, the non-profit organization is designing a TG/hijra activist calendar for 2014.
‘This would be the first such attempt in India,’ it says. ‘The concept of the calendar is to spotlight the leading transgender (male to female) and hijra activists working in the different states of India, and in other parts of globe for transgender rights.’
The trust says it is a completely non-sponsored initiative taken by them to express their respect for TG and hijra activists in India and the world.
Transgender and/or hijra activists who are 18 or older were asked to send in their photographs along with a brief bio by July.
A panel of TG/hijra community members will now choose entries for the 12-page calendar that is expected to be launched in the last week of October.
Mitr Trust, a low-profile organization, came in for wider publicity recently when the Los Angeles Times carried a report on its work and the drop-by centers it runs.
It remains to be seen how India, the largest democracy in the world, treats the unique calendar.
In the past fundamentalists have stopped the screening of films, painting exhibitions and the launch of books, decrying them as obscene and not in keeping with Indian culture.