With neglect and abomination being the only emotions transsexuals usually receive, Angel Ministries lends a hand in hope for a better tomorrow.
The truest form of love is accepting one just as they are. Unfortunately, that very same statement reeks of hypocrisy when we shift focus to a community that is ridiculed for staying true to themselves.
We conveniently choose to overlook a bad habit of a loved one or sympathise with the disabled but refuse to accept or fail to show empathy towards the non-binary section. A section that is looked down upon for simply being normal.
In an attempt to transform this way of thinking and a belief in changing the world by not changing who you are, Jagadish Kumar, 32, founded Angel Ministries in 2010 and set out to give the transgender community respectable lives.
Born into a conservative and religious family in Andhra Pradesh, Jagadish’s mother often dressed him in girls’ clothes and treated him like one too. He grew up with effeminate mannerisms. “I remember enjoying the company of women more than that of men when I was younger,” he recalls.
Blamed for his effeminate nature, Jagadish was repeatedly molested as an adolescent by his own male family members. This traumatic experience left him wondering, ‘Why me? Are there people out there like me? Am I the only one?’
Moving away to Hyderabad, Jagadish was put into a hostel and hoped of breaking away from this cycle of abuse. Sadly, he encountered the same with the male teaching staff at his hostel. Unable to confide in someone and receive help, the torment and recurring questions led him to attempting suicide when he was in school. “My failed attempt made me believe that I had a calling to do something bigger for others like me. I survived through it all and managed to complete my schooling with a hope that things would soon change.”
Things did indeed change. “When I interacted with a person with effeminate characteristics such as mine at a bus stop in Hyderabad one day, I realised I was not alone and discovered the LGBTQ community,” says Jagadish.
Continued interactions with them led to him discovering the common difficulties of mental and physical abuse they all shared. With a strong desire to work for them, Jagadish got his first opportunity in 2010 after a friend introduced him to a couple of transvestites caught up in the sex trade.
With this, Angel Ministries was born. Jagadish helped rescue them and began counselling and rehabilitation. Today, this organisation counsels, rehabilitates, provides shelters, and vocational job skills training to this section. “We accept them with love and teach them to accept themselves. We focus on job placements for them with a life fully integrated into society.” says Jagadish.
“Despite measures taken by the government to give transgenders a better living most are subjected to a number of atrocities and are forced into demeaning jobs,” says Jagadish.
Angel Ministries recognises this brutality. One of their early successes was when they met Devi in 2011, a transgender entrenched in the sex trade begging on the streets of Bengaluru. With their help, today Devi is proud owner of a vegetable stall.
Troubles weren't far behind. Jagadish faced tremendous opposition for the work he was doing. Friends and family, the people he looked to support for, left his side, and landlords refused to let out houses as shelters to the transgender community. Locating jobs took time causing rescued transgenders to slip back into old habits of begging. Jagadish had to work two jobs to fund his organisation.
Angel Ministries currently works out of Bengaluru and Eluru in Andhra Pradesh. They have rescued over 200 individuals and have connected with over 1,000 transgenders pan India.
With a handful of volunteers, Jagadish single-handedly does most amount of work in the NGO. “We first connect with these individuals, rescue them and put in hours of counselling and rehumanising their disturbed minds. They are then taught entrepreneurial skills and with help of contacts we help them find a job,” he explains.
“Our society in many ways is like my family back home: conservative and blind. People from these communities do not have access to the support structures that a ‘normal’ person has. They are left feeling isolated and in many cases, this drives them to commit suicide. Our organisation addresses these issues,” Jagadish adds.
He has a separate business whose proceeds are used to fund current activities of the NGO, and he also receives contributions from well-meaning friends. Looking for support from corporate sectors, Jagadish wants to setup a centre at Hyderabad and connect with the transgender community there.
Having named his organisation 'Angel Ministries', since angels are believed to have no gender and are not discriminated, Jagadish says he seeks to help the world understand the same.