India's attitude towards LGBTQIA+ or the queer community is still highly conservative. The transgender community is one of the most marginalised in the country, and face immense social stigma in their everyday lives.
Braving these challenges, Shaine Soni faced the world with pride and was crowned as Miss Transqueen India 2020 at an event in Delhi on December 19.
Shaine, who is a fashion designer by profession, is now gearing up to represent India at the Miss International Queen pageant that is set to take place in Thailand next year.
Started in 2017, Miss Transqueen India is a beauty pageant for transgender persons and involves all the trappings of a traditional beauty pageant, including photoshoots, talent rounds, elaborate costumes, judges, and a large audience. This marks the fourth year of the Miss Transqueen pageant which celebrates the spirit of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Born biologically male, Shaine faced an uphill struggle as she became comfortable with her gender identity. As she grew up, she faced increasing pressure from relatives and friends who would discourage her from growing her hair long, wearing the “girly" clothes, or having "effeminate" mannerisms.
"With so much pressure and bullying around me, I desperately felt I was different and that there was a problem in me," she told News18.
Things began to change when as a teenager she stumbled upon information about gender identity and gender reassignment surgery.
She ended up leaving home at 17 to pursue her education in fashion from the National Institute of Fashion Technology. She also transitioned with hormonal therapy a few years later. She admitted that due to the lack of understanding and support from her friends, she had to do everything on her own.
Shaine never officially came out to her family, but they stayed in touch after she transitioned.
Shaine, in her last year at NIFT, won a reality show and landed an internship with the Hong Kong based trend forecasting company, WGSN.
After completing her internship, she returned to India to start her own label, Nude. Apart from opening a studio in Shahpur Jat, Delhi she also took on the role of a fashion and celebrity stylist.
It was around this time that she happened to meet the Founder of Miss Transqueen India pageant, Reena Rai.
While Shaine was ready to support Reena, she was not ready to take the centerstage. It was only after Reena’s push that Shaine agreed to participate.
Because Reena could not hold a proper pageant during a pandemic, she wanted to be completely sure of the person she selects to represent India and the LGBTQ+ community, and Shaine was an obvious choice.
Shaine took it as an opportunity to finally share her true identity with her family, while also becoming a source of comfort and inspiration for other members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Shaine, who has been advocating for trans rights and the LGBTQ+ community for years now, takes up her win to work for the empowerment and betterment of transwomen.
We hope to see many more people like Shaine come forward and become a voice for those who have remained unheard for years.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)