Imphal: In a move that is both significant and emotional, a group of 34 young transgender women in Manipur were gifted ‘Emagi Phanek’ or mother’s phanek (a wraparound skirt) on the occasion of International Transgender Day of Visibility, in Imphal on Thursday.

In Manipur, transgender women are popularly known as Nupi Maanbi.

Organised by All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association (AMANA), the apex body of the transgender community in the state, the distribution of phaneks worn by several mothers and collected by different allies for the transgender women is a symbol of encouragement as well as acceptance.

Santa Khurai, AMANA secretary, said the significance of distributing a mother’s worn phanek lies in the consent and the willingness of those mothers who decided to give away their phaneks to Nupi Maanbi.

“The enthusiasm, coined with the trust, that convinced these mothers to present their phanek to Nupi Maanbi is a symbol of encouragement and acceptance. On the other hand, this will also encourage Nupi Maanbi when they wear the phanek, said Santa, the state’s foremost transgender activist.

According to the activist, many Nupi Maanbi in the state do not have the courage to express their aspiration to wear a phanek. There are also social perceptions and beliefs that is bound with the phanek. The Nupi Maanbi have for long held the longingness to wear a phanek, she said.

Expressing her happiness, 26-year-old Mangalsana Thounaojam said, “I am very grateful to those mothers who have donated their phanek for us. Certainly, this step proves that we are also part of the society which was not possible earlier. I hope and believed that it is a step of acceptance within the society.”

However, Mangalsana, who is currently doing her internship at JNIMS after completing her MBBS degree, feels that some of the discrimination cases meted out to the transgender community is also attributed to their way of living.

“One of the major factors is because of our way of living. Since, we have openly come out as a woman, we must also make sure that we live or behave the way our society wants a woman to act or live. Since our society itself is conservative, if we also live in a more conservative manner, I feel that issues of discrimination may become less,” she said adding that parents must treat such children in a better way and give more importance to education.

“Because if the parents give up the children after coming to know their gender choices, we have no other choices for livelihood but end up in the same profession of beauty industry. So, the main issue is caused by the family,” she said.

After Dr Beonce Laishram, Mangalsana is the second transgender doctor in the state. She wants to specialise as an orthopaedic doctor after her internship.

Commenting on the historic event for the transgender community, Sonia Nepram, an award-winning documentary filmmaker of ‘Bloody Phanek,’ said, “Today’s event is a symbolic event because mothers have actually gifted the Phanek to transgenders which is a symbol of courage, resistance, strength of women. Transgenders are not other people; they are our own people whom we should be able to protect, love and accept as they are.”

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