Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia
Bollywood actor Monica Dogra, known for her roles in films like 'David' and 'Dhobi Ghat', in an interview to OneWorld South Asia stressed on removing the stigma attached to the transgendered community by building a more inclusive society. Excerpts from the interview:
OneWorld South Asia: How do you express your anguish over crimes like rape and racism?
Monica Dogra: I express my anger and stand through everything that I do, be it a tweet on the internet or instagram or funding projects that speak about the divine feminine, the need for the divine feminine to be inhabited and respected across humanity and across genders.
This is something that is very personal to me, and I think has been an innate part of my work for the last ten years.
OWSA: How can celebrities sensitise people about everyday racism that happens in Delhi and other parts of India?
Dogra: Celebrities have media attention. They have presence through different kinds of media including the television, radio that reach out to thousands, if not millions of people in this nation.
Therefore, a celebrity has a very important role, and that should be taken very seriously. I like to work on themes that are unifying rather than dividing. I have experienced racism in America as an Indian, and I’ve experienced a form of racism in India as an NRI in India. I feel that diversity just needs to be celebrated.
So, on a community level we need to start removing stigmas, removing racism, and removing secularism. We need to encourage tolerance towards sexual diversity and gender diversity. Celebrities can use their voices; anything a celebrity does can automatically be included in the newspapers, television or in films, so they can just use their voices.
OWSA: Do you think news media has actually failed to write about social issues?
Dogra: I feel that a lot of news is biased and does not reflect the opinions of people who matter to me. Unfortunately, there is a large assumption that the only media that will be consumed has to be sensational and celebrity driven.
I don’t like to read newspapers because I am an extremely sensitive person. I am also simultaneously very active and politically charged, but my politics is human politics and not the kind of politics that people think of.
To be honest, studios are unwilling to fund films with themes that are challenging societal norms and are not really pushing boundaries in terms of cultural perceptions.
I do not think media is incompetent, and I wouldn’t even go so far to say that media is insensitive. But, someone needs to be brave enough to make a change.
OWSA: How do you think media can help in the empowerment of transgender people?
Dogra: I think media can just begin by writing how beautiful this community is. The transgender people are full of survivors, dancers, actors, fashionistas and are inspiring, if they were just included. That’s how the media can help; they just need to be included in the mainstream.
OWSA: How do you think education and employment can help in the mainstreaming of the transgenders?
Dogra: Though they are recognized as legal, at the same time nobody wants hijras to sit next to them on a bus or watch them as actors in movies or in the shopping malls. There’s just an overall insensitivity, intolerance and misunderstanding that needs to be rectified on a priority basis.
Education and employment play a key role in all of this but changing an overall view is the key. Once there is empathy between sexual identity groups and gender groups, that’s when things start to shape up in a right way.
OWSA: How important it is for the society to give transgenders their due space?
Dogra: It is paramount, it’s incredibly important. We are talking about birth rights; we’re talking about things that are cardinal, you cannot confiscate human rights from a human being on the planet. It’s the most heinous and hateful act a human being could possibly do.
The recognition as the third gender of the transgender is definitely a positive step but until there is true inclusion and integration, we should not be celebrating.
I am crowd funding an art project choreographed by Hollywood’s well known performance artist Ryan Heffington. The project is aimed at empowering the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, wherein I am casting people from this section of our society.
The mixed-format project, ‘Shiver’, aims at telling people that there is a community out there that is really desperate for dialogues and representation. The project would be instrumental in mainstreaming the importance of basic human rights to express gender and sexuality in any way deemed fit by an individual.
The project aims to appeal to legislators all over the world to decriminalize all consensual acts of sex regardless of gender identification.