The Indian LGBTQIA+ community is yet to emerge in sports, highlighting the urgent need for intersectional diversity. With an aim to unite and empower the community, Sadam Hanjabam started an Imphal-based NGO, Ya-All (Yawol).
It was during the five-day Yaoshang Festival in 2018 — celebrated to mark the onset of spring in Manipur— that Hanjabam realised how intrinsic segregation has become to sport.
As quickly as they gathered to partake in the festivities, the locals often divided themselves into male and female teams, leaving no place for inclusion of the third gender.
On witnessing this, Hanjabam wanted to do something about the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community. He wanted to ensure that the community members living in the remotest areas of northeastern states were heard and seen.
He said that sharing changing rooms and being part of a team where you feel like an outsider, the trans athletes have to go through horrifying experiences which affect their mental health and well being.
Within two years, he along with his team, organised a separate sporting event to break the stereotype and eliminate the discrimination.
"It was a notion that the LGBTQ members, whether the queer or transgender persons, were equipped in soft skills but were not meant for physically strenuous activities. But such people were never offered a space to showcase their skills due to their sexual orientation. This has been a one-of-its-kind step towards a progressive change,” Hanjabam told the media outlets.
Since its inception, Ya-All aims to create a safer environment for the queer youth of Manipur, while battling stigmatisation and discrimination. By setting up safe spaces for the queer youth who cannot migrate, Ya-All is also catering to the mental health and well-being of many people.
Several events such as track and field, basketball, and badminton were also organised but football was the organisation's pick to show solidarity. Therefore, the football team launched by Ya-All is a counter to the male-female dichotomy in sport that doesn't provide enough space for queer participation.
The NGO sowed the seeds against queerphobia and gender-discrimination in the sporting community by putting together a strong team of 14 highly capable and passionate members.
“Our purpose is to help them enjoy their identity and provide a platform to prove that they can do things together. This will help change our society’s mindsets towards the third gender,” says Hanjabam.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)