Naaz Joshi is the world’s first transgender woman to win an International beauty pageant against cisgender women.
The most recent of her titles is the Empress Earth which was held in May 2021. She is also a transgender rights activist and a motivational speaker. Joshi won the contest Miss World Diversity three times in a row and later emerged as the first transwoman in India to become a cover model. However, this is not how her life had always been. She started as a bar dancer and then she did sex work also and today she is a proud single mother. Joshi spoke to SheThePeople about her journey. Here are some snippets from her interview.
On people’s perception changing after Naaz Joshi’s victory
Joshi said that the way people look at her has changed a lot after she won the beauty pageant, Empress Earth. It took her seven years to come where she is right now. She also said that her mother is proud of her now because of her success.
On being the world’s first transwoman to win an international pageant against a cisgender woman
Joshi shares that she was not supposed to be a part of the contest initially. “In 2016 Miss United Nations asked for some pictures of girls who can represent India. So we sent them and they didn’t like anyone, so they offered me to come over.” She told them that she was a transwoman and as per the rules the contestants could be only female by birth. But they clarified that the rule was eradicated in 2014. All she needed was a passport which stated her to be a woman. Since she had one, she went to Jamaica to compete.
“There were a lot of eyebrows which were raised because I was the only transgender person who competed. And every woman said that why a transwoman in our beauty contest? And then when they got to know that I have a history of sex work, they were all the more reluctant. But I went there, I proved myself and I got the title of ambassador.”
On being different
“I always thought I was a woman and when at the age of 11, I started working at a dance bar. I was very happy because I got a chance to dress up as a woman and do my makeup. I wanted to live that life. I lived that life till 2018. That’s where I realised I’m a woman,” said Joshi. She then went on to share that when she met a transgender person at NIFT, she told her that there is an LGBTQ community as well and there are parties that happen. She assured her that she was not alone of her kind. Joshi thus got her confidence and decided to go for a sex-change surgery.
Importance of mental health
Talking about transgender people, Naaz Joshi said that they have to take a pill called Progynova throughout their lives, even after their sex-change surgery. The pill causes a lot of mood swings and can even make a person suicidal. “So transgender people are always at a target of poor mental health,” she added.
The beauty queen said that being a single mother in society even for a woman is very difficult. “In my case, I was happy because the parents were known to me and were getting separated and she was an IVF baby and I didn’t have to do that much of court fight. So, they gave me my baby and my family happily received the baby. She is everyone’s apple of eye. I’m very happy that she is being loved.”
Message for young kids trying to come out to their parents
Joshi says that she suggests everyone not to come out when they are in their teens because they do not know how their parents will react. They should do it only when they are financially stable. “There is no hurry at all. But your parents know what you are. So no need to bring it now. Do it when you are stable financially because you don’t know if your parents are going to accept you or reject you. Where will you go if your parents reject you? So, at least be independent first and then come out.”
She continued saying that some people asked for her suggestion regarding if they should go for sex reassignment surgery. To them, she suggested that they should go for it when they are 18+ and can afford it. She added that they should opt for the path with the consent of their family. Even if they do not receive any support from their family, they should go for it when they are financially independent.
Message for parents of kids from the queer community
“Don’t get scared of people. Your child is yours. Don’t let them undergo trauma. They are already going through a trauma inside their heart and minds. Don’t add to their problem and stay strong with them. Be with them. Stand with them. Tell the world, yes, we are with family, we are with our children. And I can give you in writing that your children will make you proud for sure. If you abandon them, they might become a bar dancer or sex worker like me. They might have to go through suicide attempts as I did. So please don’t betray your children. Open your arms and embrace them. They are your blood only,” said Naaz Joshi.
Watch the full interview here: