About half a month from now, our inboxes will be full and our days busy. June is recognized as the LGBTQIA+ Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, and amidst rainbow flags, pinkwashing, homonationalism and other such shenanigans, working class, Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi and disabled transgender people will continue to suffer. Think you are an ally? Put your money where your mouth is. This Pride month, please contribute to fundraisers by transgender persons.
As I write this sitting in a comfortable room in an urban city, firebrand transgender-rights activist Sintu Bagui’s world is crashing. Sintu is the child of a sex worker from Seoraphuli (Hooghly District, West Bengal). She is a Bahujan transgender woman who had to leave school at the age of 14 due to constant transphobic violence. Since then, she has worked odd jobs in extremely tiring shifts, and has been heavily underpaid and exploited. That hasn’t deterred Sintu from fighting relentlessly for the rights of transgender, gender non-conforming and gender non-binary people in West Bengal.
I will not spend words writing about Sintu’s journey. Her work has been featured in HuffPost; she has spoken about her life in a Josh Talks video. In 2019, she was selected as a Lok Adalat judge in Seoraphuli. If one has followed the protests against earlier versions of the the Transgender Persons’ (Protection of Rights) Act (then Bill), one could not have missed Sintu’s firm, resounding voice from West Bengal.
“Everybody in Seoraphuli knows me and my work. Several people have appreciated my work. Yet, nobody is willing to even rent a room to me” - Sintu Bagui
Today, Sintu’s house is dilapidated. Over the last few months, she has applied to several banks for a loan. In our conversation, she told me that every bank has categorically refused to give her a loan – sometimes bringing her transgender identity upfront, or sometimes using the lack of a collateral as an excuse. She has also tried her luck with microfinancing companies. Most negotiations have met the same fate. One of them has kept her waiting for more than 10 days, and is yet to give her a decision on her loan request. Her luck has run out.
Sintu told me, “Everybody in Seoraphuli knows me and my work. Several people have appreciated my work. Yet, nobody is willing to even rent a room to me” (Translated from my conversation with Sintu in Bangla). For the “mainstream” society, it doesn’t matter how many hurdles intersectionally marginalised transgender people like Sintu cross daily, or how much they achieve despite these hurdles. What matters is their gender. Their caste. As Rohith Vemula wrote, “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.”
“My mind is preoccupied with worries about a roof over my head. I am slipping into depression. I am unable to work with and for my community, and that is making me feel worse.” - Sintu Bagui
Even in the toughest of the times, Sintu is worried not as much about herself as she is about her work for the rights of transgender people being affected. “My mind is preoccupied with worries about a roof over my head. I am slipping into depression. I am unable to work with and for my community, and that is making me feel worse,” Sintu told me in Bangla as we spoke.
Sintu has fought a selfless battle all her life. Unfortunately, her fight is far from over. If you are an ally reading this, please remember that you can neither understand nor participate in this fight. You can, however, help empower Sintu – and other intersectionally marginalised transgender people – to continue the fight. One way to start is to contribute to their fundraisers.
With Sintu’s consent, here is her bank account details, if you would like to make a contribution to her directly:
Beneficiary name: Sintu Bagui
A/C number: 57190100004185
IFSC code: BARB0SEORAP (First Zero, then the letter “O”)
Bank name: Bank of Baroda
Sintu has also consented to her number being shared. It is (+91)7059337307. She uses this number for Google Pay and PhonePe.
If you would like to go the Milaap way, here is a link to her fundraiser. (Please note that Milaap may be charging a GST and handling charges based on this comment, although I do not have the resources to verify this independently. If you agree/disagree with this, please write to me with some evidence and I will update this post.)
If you think a poster for social media to disseminate information about Sintu's fundraiser will help, here is one (the poster is downloadable):
I am also linking below a couple of fundraisers by transgender people, in case you would like to contribute to more than one. I will attempt – to the best of my abilities – to update this list. Please note that I may not be able to “verify” each call. If you would like to help me prepare this list, you can do so by bringing to my attention any ongoing fundraiser by transgender, gender non-conforming and gender non-binary persons. My email is sayantan[at]thelifeofscience[dot]com.
Other fundraisers by transgender, gender non-conforming and gender non-binary persons:
Kiran Nayak is an Adivasi transman with disabilities who needs support towards his healthcare.
Dr. Aqsa Shaikh is spearheading several efforts to help transgender people familiarize themselves with their rights. (Full disclosure: I am associated with this project and may receive monetary compensation for my work under the ambit of the project.)