Gender sensitization in schools through drag performance

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You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

– Maya Angelou

I read this poem whenever I felt down or depressed. This poem makes me feel good and inspires me to work towards my dreams. I recently recited this poem in a school. It is called Poorna. This is probably the biggest dream that I have achieved so far, performing in a school as Mayamma. The reason why I wanted Maya to perform in a school was because I believed that schools and colleges need to learn to make their environment inclusive and be informed about gender equality. It should start at the grassroots before it moves to the top. I was done with educating adults about sexuality and gender for the year. I wanted a chance to educate children too. It helps them understand that there are people out there, who believe in gender fluidity. More importantly, kids should learn about being inclusive in the society.

I had made this as one of my major goals for the year 2016 because I understood that children would see Maya as a motherly figure. She would go out there to talk to them and answer their questions regarding gender equality and individualism. Giving goals to the character that I created gave me the ambition to work towards my dreams. This instance of performing at a school, gave the perception to many that I am a drag queen of substance. I rather strive on quality of my work rather than portray mindless and not well-thought-out performances. So, to watch my character grow to perform in a school was the biggest achievement that I have done so far. It required patience and performing for school children meant that I had to be prepared for questions. The kids were curious about Mayamma and they patiently sat through half an hour performance. The questions that they asked made me realise how welcoming they were to me. Their questions ranged from “Are you a transgender?” to “What’s that on your head?”. It made me realize that children are more open minded than adults. However, they were curious about the person who created Maya.

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What made it important for me to share a story with school kids? I wanted to share my story about the bullying and teasing that I faced growing up. This way children learn that they aren’t alone in this fight and there are other people with them too. I was teased as a boy in school especially for the way I walked. My friends in school teased me saying that “I walk like a lady”. I felt bad and cried to my mother. She somehow managed to console me. This teasing continued from school to college and to my post graduation. I honestly thought there was something wrong with me until I learnt to accept myself for who I am. It is necessary that schools help children realize who they are and make them accept themselves. It will help them in the long run.

I am glad I wasn’t late in that journey. I was able to accept the way I am and it helped me in the long run. Using my performances, I can tell children that they aren’t alone. I tell them that I was there where they are. It was a proud moment for me when a few boys walked up to me and told me about their performance as a transgender character in a school play. I appreciated them for that initiative. I hope to perform in more schools and colleges. It will take this country forward if the future generations are inclusive about gender and sexuality. I think that’s what this drag queen of substance has to do for years to come.

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Author Profile:
Alex Mathew works as a communications officer in a NGO. He is also a performer, famously known as Maya, the drag queen. He focuses on bringing about issues related to individualism, feminism and gender equality under the spotlight. Apart from that, he loves to entertain people in his spare time.

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