Feeding transphobia

Feeding transphobia

Films are expected to form beliefs, influence opinions and change attitudes, including towards social issues not cause distress to a community, writes Shilok Mukkati

Pati Patni Aur Panga

I am playing a man in Pati Patni Aur Panga,” shares Adah Sharma, an Indian film actor. This statement might sound exciting to the audience, but one must know she is playing the role of a transgender woman. No trans-woman in the world will identify themself as a man. ‘Pati Patni Aur Panga’, a six-episode comedy-drama is being screened on a popular Indian OTT platform which has over 280 million users globally. If you do the math, that is a vast amount of misinformation and transphobia.

Let’s begin with what is gender dysphoria? According to APA, some people who are transgender will experience gender dysphoria, which refers to psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity. If director Abir Sengupta and his team had got this right, the narrative of the series could have been comprehensively different. Historically, misrepresentation of the transgender community in media is not new, the continuation of such objectification and blatant stereotyping for comedy is intolerable. The community is still digesting the horrific film Laxmii Bomb which had popular cisgender Indian actor Akshay Kumar as the protagonist. Now we have an offensive transphobic humour series directed to create transphobia. I have three questions to the filmmakers and actors who are fetishising our lives thinking they are doing justice or brave roles:

Our life is not a subject for cisgender heterosexuals’ mass entertainment. Do our struggles entertain you?

Why is it that only cisgender people play the role of a transgender? 

Why do Indian films normalise trans violence?

On Dec 16 when the trailer of Pati Patni Aur Panga was released on Youtube, it got 21,10,240+ views, 18K likes and 5.3K dislikes. This ratio shows the lack of sensitivity towards the trans-community. The LGBT community needs representation in mass media, not contempt. There have been supportive comments boycotting this series, but those seem to have been lost in the conversation.

Arthur P Shimamura, a psycho nematologist has stated in his research: “Influences of emotion on context memory while viewing film clips shows that an emotional event can produce complex influences on memory, particularly both benefits and costs for various aspects of memory. Indeed, the kind of emotion elicited (happiness, sadness, disgust), the kind of stimuli used to elicit emotion (words, pictures, film clips), and the kind of memory assessed (free recall, item recognition, context memory), may be important variables in assessing the full scope of emotional factors on memory.”

When you apply Shimamura’s theory with the transgender community, imagine the amount of trigger points that can affect the community’s mental health. Dealing with gender dysphoria, social ostracisation, sexual-social-physical-psychological-economical-legal abuse, family and partner rejection and abomination should be relived again. On the other hand, understand the cognitive psychology of the cisgender audience — cinema becomes a “tool for broadcasting social ideology to the masses,” which means of individual and social transformation. As a result, films are expected to form beliefs, influence opinions and change attitudes, including towards social issues. Now as an audience, you can choose to continue to laugh at the suppressed community’s violence or choose to boycott such transmisogynistic films. 

(The author is a performer, poet & a feminist activist who has left a mark with her art, poetry, LGBTQIA+ talks and feminism ideologies. This column will share untold stories of inclusivity & diversity.)