Part 4 in a Series: Radio and Development
BANGALORE, INDIA – It’s Thursday morning in Bangalore, a city in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Community reporter Christy Raj, 27, is hurrying to finish his work before 12:30 p.m., the hour when his favorite radio show, “Yaaru Ivaru,” begins on Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz, a community-run radio station.
Raj says he wouldn’t miss the program for the world. The reason is simple: This is the only media show in his region that is by, of and for people like him: transgenders.
Yaaru Ivaru, which translates to “Who is This Person?,” advocates for the rights of the transgender community. It also provides a space for trangender people to express themselves.
“This is the only program that makes me feel that the world is equal and where there is a space for people other than male or female,” Raj says with a smile.
Yet, there is a tinge of sadness in his voice.
As a teenager, Raj says his own parents beat him unconscious and threw him out of their home when they learned that their child, whom they had brought up as a daughter, identified as a boy.
“They thought I was a freak creature that would bring them shame and dishonor,” he says. “For them, it would have been better if I had died instead.”
Raj may have died had he not been found by a fellow transgender, who took him in and gave him shelter and care. A few years later, he found a job in a nongovernmental organization that works with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community here.
Raj eventually received journalism training in a local community media organization, becoming India’s first transgender reporter.
“There are dozens of TV channels and hundreds of newspapers and magazines,” he says. “But you won’t find a transgender person there even if you look through a magnifying glass.”
He says this leads to inaccurate reporting on the community.
“When they run a story on the transgender community, the facts are either distorted or extremely sensationalized,” Raj says.
In sharp contrast, Radio Active recognizes the transgender community as an equal player in building society. And Raj says he never misses a segment of Yaaru Ivaru.
A local community radio station in Bangalore aims to give a voice to transgender people through its programming and other initiatives. Station staff and listeners say that the coverage by and for transgenders has helped them to live positively and to attain greater access to opportunities ranging from education to employment. Other initiatives are also using the media here to provide more accurate and effective coverage on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Still, community members acknowledge that more needs to be done as many still don’t feel comfortable publicly identifying themselves as transgender.
There are about 5 million to 6 million transgender people among India’s population of more than 1.2 billion, according to The Humsafar Trust, a Mumbai-based nongovernmental organization