Kalki speaks of untold lives of transgender people in her new book

The transgender activist’s collection of poems, essays, monologues, art and illustrations in her new book is an expression of hope

A non-binary future for the transgender community is an impassioned plea from transgender activist and artist Kalki. She has attempted this vision in the form an essay, a utopian view of an inclusive future for her community in all walks of life, in her new book We Are Not The Others (Notion Press) launched on June 30.

“I am excited and nervous,” says Kalki who has put together a collection of poems, essays, monologues, art and illustrations done over the course of the pandemic. Kalki, who is the founder of the Sahodari Foundation that provides counselling and support to underprivileged transgender community members, says the lockdown affected them in all aspects, particularly their mental health. “The uncertainties and lack of finances took a toll on the community’s health. The loneliness and isolation reminded me of my childhood when I used to look for places without humans, like a forest, to hide.”

However, Kalki turned to art and poetry to keep herself engaged. “I made portraits of my favourite icon Frida Kahlo and sold them. I kept myself active creatively, I wrote poetry on my life as an independent transgender woman, my friends, their lives, hopes, and struggles.”

Along with her friend, Laura Sherwood from Hawaii, she created a Facebook group and started a virtual meeting every evening. They danced, narrated stories, created art, and wrote poetry. Later, other friends joined too. “We were committed to to this evening meet and every day we created something new,” recounts Kalki.

Laura, a PhD scholar at the Feilding Graduate University in US, has done a study of Kalki’s activism in India as part of her doctorate study. “During our conversations, I spoke to her about my vision for the future of the community and my ambitions. We learn from each other. We co-founded the Transformative Arts Project on Facebook during the pandemic to divert our energies towards creativity and find happiness.”

Kalki’s pop art, Cubism, line drawings, and illustrations that talk of gender and sexualities form a part of the book. “There is also a monologue titled My Perfectly Imperfect Vagina where I document my experience of how some of us from the community suffered at the hands of a quack when we opted for gender reassignment surgery. It’s a satirical take.”

The book also has English translations of Kalki’s Tamil poems by N Elango who heads the postgraduate Department of English at Mannar Thirumalai Naicker College, Madurai. Kalki,who has always been vocal about the rights of the transgender community and gender injustices, says, “The book is our collective expression of pain, fear and hope.”

Available on Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press.

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