Naaz Joshi is India’s first transgender international beauty queen, a trans rights activist. Recently she won the Empress Earth 2021-22 title, an international title in a virtual contest. Valentina from Colombia was the first runner-up along with second runner-up was Olivia from Mexico. To celebrate pride month, Naaz sat down with the team of SocioTab, opening about her life struggles, parenthood and hardships she faced once she started accepted her true self.
Please tell us about yourself? How it all started.
I was born on December 31st 1984, ever since I can recall I considered myself a girl. When I was 7, I was thrown out of my home, I was gang-raped at 11. I worked at a dance bar till 18. At 18 I came to Delhi. Did fashion graduation from NIFT. I was placed with two of India’s top designers Ritu Kumar and Ritu Beri. I also launched my label and I post graduated in marketing from IMT GHAZIABAD. But I had to quit work in fashion because I had no jobs. I became an escort and during that time I met a very famous fashion photographer Mr Rishi Taneja who took me as his muse and did a biopic during 2011-2012. I started getting modelling assignments. I changed my sex in the year 2013 and became India’s first trans cover model in 2015. That was my first taste of fame and glory.
How did you get into the pageant industry?
In 2015, I was watching Femina Miss India with my household help, she was a married woman and back then there were no Mrs India contests. She asked me – “didi Mujhe bhi crown chaheeye”. Her statement inspired me to launch an exclusive pageant for married women named MIHM MRS India Home Makers 2015. I started giving international exposure to my students. One of the beauty pageants contacted us that they are looking for candidates from India. I told my assistant to send all the images. By mistake, he sent my pictures too. I was selected. This contest was for natural-born women but the owner of this pageant was so impressed with my pictures that I was invited to South Africa for the contest and surprisingly I won and the rest is history. I participate in beauty pageants to raise my voice for trans women, underprivileged kids and for women empowerment.
There is so much mental as well as physical abuse transgender face on a daily basis? How should we tackle it?
The best way to tackle this is that people should be educated on trans issues. For this media should keep writing about trans issues. Secondly, we the empowered trans women should regularly interact with students and cooperate on gender sensitisation. I do it regularly. I wish other empowered trans women do too. My advice to trans people would be don’t get disheartened. If someone treats you badly, raise your voice. I did it in 2019 when a hotel cancelled my booking.
Let’s talk about your social work. You have been doing social activities since an early age.
I have been associated with NGOs since very early in life. I joined People for Animals at the age of 18, while studying at NIFT, I used to rescue dogs. I aim to have an orphanage for girls one day. I have got sex reassignment surgery of one transgender woman through money collected on Milaap, a crowdfunding portal. I donate my clothes on a regular basis. Soon after covid my first aim will be opening my NGO and helping trans women for job opportunities.
I couldn’t go out much but I interacted with students and NGOs. I regularly tweet to our Honourable PM to look into the vaccines and other needed drugs in covid.
What do you have to say to all people who still call transgender with derogatory names?
How would you feel if someone calls you names? Please know that karma is a bitch. You do good, better shall come your way. You do bad, worse shall come your way. So think before you speak.
You have daughters how’s motherhood feels as a transgender in India?
Motherhood has nothing to do with gender. Mother can be a woman, man and trans genders. I absolutely enjoy motherhood. Surprisingly, society has appreciated my decision.
What you have to say to closeted trans kids who are reading this interview?
Come out of your closet and make a difference in society. We, the community, needs you. We want you to raise your voice against wrong deeds and discrimination.
What’s the difference between sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression?
Sexual orientation is about the preference in the bed. Whether someone likes a man or a woman or both. Their sexual orientation can be lesbian, gays, bisexual, bi-curious or homosexual
Gender identity is when the individual accepts himself or herself as the opposite gender. This can happen anytime in life and has nothing to do with sex.
Gender expression is when people come out of their closets. Lesbian gays and bisexuals are not included in gender expression. When a transgender starts cross-dressing, starts hormones or goes for gender reassignment surgery that’s called gender expression or celebration. For example, pride month is an example of gender expression which is celebrated in June.