New Delhi, Feb 22: Flamboyant transgender rights activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is proud of her sexuality and claims to be "a woman who can put all other women to shame."
"Me Hijra Me Laxmi," the new English translation of her autobiography launched at the New Delhi World Book Fair was one book she says she never imagined writing.
The book is already in publication in Marathi and Gujarati. "I was pestered constantly for two years before I agreed to write this. I always felt that the book could never happen," she says.
She was the first transgender person to represent Asia Pacific at the United Nations and has represented her community and India on several international platforms including the World AIDS conference in Toronto.
She currently runs Astitva, an organisation for the support and development of sexual minorities. The autobiography is a narrative of her ordeal of becoming a hijra by choice, and her subsequent journey of fighting against tremendous odds for the recognition of her community.
"The book is about my life. It has everything from the numerous love affairs I have had to finding solace in Mumbai's bars. From mental and physical abuse to finding a life of grace, dignity and fame, it is about Laxmi, a person who recognises herself as a hijra at present proudly," she says.
While most 'hijras' are shown the door by their families, Laxmi expresses inexplicable gratitude to her parents who accepted her with her anomalies.
"I am a hijra and have been accepted by my family. This is rare in a culture where deviant sexuality is enough for parents to disown their offspring," she writes. "They never stopped me from expressing myself," she says.
When her book was launched by Oxford University Press at the Book Fair recently, Laxmi was surrounded by several of her 'chelas' god old ally Atharva and her guru and namesake Laxmi Guru.
With a postgraduate degree in Bharatanatyam, Laxmi who starred in shows like "Bigg Boss" and "Sach Ka Saamna" says although she now is a full time activist, it was dance that made her feel that she was also a part of mainstream society. Dance and activism, she says, are not much different from each other.
"In both there is an expression of personal feelings and a message. Both dismantle the status quo," she writes in her book. But, when it came to choose between the two, she chose activism because it, "saved me when I was about to perish."
Laxmi, agrees that several measures for the benefit of the third gender have been introduced by the government, but says that equal treatment of hijras still remains a far cry in India.
"I hope the government will devise a budget keeping in mind the third gender category or it might as well have someone represent us in the session," she says. While Laxmi admits she has had uncountable affairs, she says she loves herself more than anyone else.
"Every morning I wake up, look in the mirror and say that I love myself. If every woman would love herself as much as I love myself, this society would cease to be patriarchal," she says.
"If I were a woman biologically, then I would have loved to be a courtesan," she says. If Laxmi were to write another book, she says it would be on the "men in my life."
"The man who brought me on this earth, the one who exploited me and the one who I exploited; it will talk about all those men," says Laxmi.