Make Your Voice Count

Breaking down the patriarchy: Creating safe spaces for transgender communities in India - Satvik Sharma, India

By Tharindi Devasurendra – Thursday, May 28, 2021

Patriarchy is extremely deep-rooted in societies all around the world. India is no exception to this rule. In a society built on patriarchy, the concerns regarding gender identity can be quite extreme as cultural and colonial implications act as a wall towards self-identity and acceptance.

Satvik Sharma is an activist based in New Delhi, India, and works to promote the rights and visibility of transgender men in India. Satvik is a transgender man and believes that the lack of attention on transmen is a considerable barrier to intersectional equality on a wider spectrum. Satvik completed his MBA from Doon Business School, and after his graduation, he has worked as a soft skills trainer for Udayan Care. In addition, Satvik was a participant in the Queer Youth Leadership Course 2020, part of the Keshav Suri Fellowship Program supported by the Canadian Consulate in Mumbai.

Satvik is currently working for the Transgender Welfare Equity and Empowerment Trust (TWEET) Foundation as the Program Manager. The foundation is a registered body under the Mumbai Charity Commissioner led by seven trans activists. Their work circles around the welfare of trans persons: their education, medical treatment, legal standing, and cultural and social upliftment.

Satvik is also one of the co-founders of the Transmen Collective, which is a New Delhi based group responsible for providing safe spaces for transmen for networking, information gathering and transition support. The Transmen Collective is a community-based organisation led by three core members and ten volunteers based in New Delhi and was formed in September 2017 to create safe spaces for Transmen in the capital city. The collective is a combined effort of some accumulative ideas and ideologies to connect people and bring the limelight around the issues of the LGBTIQ minorities and support their empowerment.

As the issues of the transmasculine community are mostly limited to transitioning, wherein the other social, mental, emotional factors fail to get highlighted during the entire journey, the Collective has started to work on it. Their overall idea of empowerment is not only limited to transition but growth and development throughout their life. They have collaborated with various other organisations like Nazariya QRFG, YP Foundation for a consultation program that was established to discuss the Transgender Bill in 2017. They have also collaborated with Safe Access, Tweet Foundation, and PeriFerry for many community campaigns and events. They organise various online and offline events, including movie screenings and sports-based activities.

Since the start of the pandemic, transgender people had to cope with different challenges, such as limited access to hospital facilities, disruption to HIV and other services, including hormone therapy, unemployment and lockdowns. Satvik has been providing monetary support to key affected populations to rent accommodations and pay transportation to access health facilities. In addition, along with the TWEET Foundation, he has been reaching out to several organisations that work on diversity and inclusion, such as Amazon, HP and Godrej, to provide jobs for members of the affected communities. “The trans community do not lack skills in obtaining employment, but most workplaces do not contain basic infrastructures like gender-neutral that have washrooms and inclusive environments to work in,” says Satvik. “Due to this, transgender people quit their jobs because of constant stigma and discrimination and misgendering”, he added.

A joint project to develop shelter homes for transgender people in India was started by the Indian government and is called Garima(dignity) Greh(home). This project was spread out over ten cities in India. Along with TWEET Foundation, Satvik is expected to handle the overseeing of the shelter home in Mumbai starting at the end of May 2021. They have also raised funds and secured a shelter home in Delhi exclusively for transgender men. The shelter provides food, a safe place for people going through domestic crises or running away from home. They also offer services such as mental health support and counselling for people in distress. Trans individuals who travel to Delhi for medical support also end up finding refuge within this shelter home.

On another front, the TWEET Foundation has collected reliable and accurate data and information on sensitized doctors, including endocrinologists and psychiatrists, who provide transgender-friendly healthcare services, such as gender reassignment surgeries and hysterectomies. The TWEET Foundation website contains information along with reviews of each doctor to increase reliability.

As one of the co-founders of the Transmen Collective. He and his colleagues help transgender men who are going through personal issues and act as an intermediary in providing them access to resources and organisations which will help cater to their needs. They also raise awareness and visibility by promoting fundraising events  through their Instagram handle: 

Many social media influencers with high followings, such as Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju and Gaysi, also help promote the work of the Transmen Collective.

The COVID-19 vaccine shortage in India is taking a huge toll on the community’s mental and physical health. To ensure prompt access to information and mental health support, Satvik answers questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and hormone therapy or any other health concern by consulting with endocrinologists. In addition, transgender people often encounter problems whilst accessing healthcare services at hospitals and clinics because their assigned gender at birth does not match their identity cards.

Satvik emphasises the technical gap within his community and how the transfer from offline to online platforms deeply affects most of their ongoing work. One of the main challenges is the lack of digital literacy and isolation. However, Satvik believes that the virtual space comes with positive aspects. For example, it has given him the chance to reach out to wider audiences to get involved from the comfort of his own home. He makes sure that all of his online work is intersected by including trans people with disabilities, special needs, other trans men who fall within dimensions of race, caste, religion and other trans minorities.

He also recognises that while many jobs necessarily rely on physical presence, he says, “I am blessed that I am working from home, most people do not get this, this is a privilege”.

“As the idea of being a man comes from the cisgender world, this hegemonic “man” portrays toxic masculinity. Unfortunately, this has also become the ideal for many trans men, which is how  patriarchy affects minorities within minorities in identifying who they are.” 

Satvik is committed to working towards bringing visibility to the voices of the unheard and underrepresented. His work around transgender men and the discrimination they face gives hope and courage for more trans activists to come forward and raise their voices. He encourages communities to refuse tokenistic approaches and to promote fair and healthy representations. Satvik has been vocal for the rights of LGBTQ individuals for over four years and continues to work in shaping an inclusive and equal society for all.

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JAN GABRIEL CASTAÑEDA

Philippines
He/Him
Board Member

Jan is passionate about seeing through the potential contributions of psychological sciences and human rights advocacy in LGBT people’s lives. He is currently Program Associate of ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and is a member of the LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group of the Psychological Association of the Philippines. He has written for various platforms and publications on a diverse range of topics from gender and sexuality to human rights experiences in different contexts. Jan’s desire is to engage in productive and meaningful work that bridges scholarship with practice rooted in people’s real experiences.

PATRICK JUANICO

Philippines
He/Them
Graphic Designer

Currently, Nico is a college student studying in the Philippines and is simultaneously working for Youth Voices Count as one of the graphic designers for the organization. He lists producing the brand logo and look of HRPlus Asia as one of his significant achievements. His interests in literature and creating films have also honed and continued to improve his skills in graphic designing.

JAN ELLA BRILLANTES

Philippines
She/They
Social Media Officer

Jan Ella is currently taking up her undergraduate studies at the University of the Philippines Visayas and has been a consistent academic awardee since 2019. She is involved in various organizations such as the Catalyst UPV as the Volunteer Director in 2021, former Publications Committee Head for UP Lipad and former member of Iloilo Pride Team.

JE-ANN PALMAIRA

Philippines
She/Her
Project Finance Officer

Je-ann is the current Project Finance Officer under the Finance Department. She graduated from the University of San Agustin with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration major
in Marketing Management.

Her involvement in her University’s Little Theater organization led her to find an interest in theater, films and the arts. Aside from theater arts, she also partakes in the company’s production work including stage management and most notably, heading the organization’s marketing team.

MARION REA CAMEROS

Philippines
She/Her
Accounting Associate

Marion graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting Technology which has made her suitable for being the Accounting Associate of Youth Voices Count. She lists watching movies as one of her hobbies that helps her wind down during her leisure time.

ATTY. RONIFELLE L. BARRIOS

Philippines
She/Her
Legal Counsel

She is a graduate of AB Political Science from West Visayas State University (WVSU), in Iloilo City. In her days in college, she was the founding Prime Minister of WVSU Debate Circle, the ROTC Corps Commander and later a Volunteer Instructor in the Air Force Reserve Command. When she ran for the first time in their University Student Council, she was elected number one councilor. Her interest in leadership grew when she joined the 10th National Youth Parliament, organized by the National Youth Commission in 2014, where she later on became the Regional Convener for Western Visayas.

She then pursued her studies to take up law in San Beda University in Mendiola, Manila. As a law student, she was still active in student organizations: She joined moot court competitions, she served as layout artist in 2 of San Beda Law’s Official Publications: The Barrister and San Beda Law Journal. In her last year in law school, she was the President of San Beda Law Human Rights Advocate (HRA), where she was later conferred Leadership Award by the Association of Law Students of the Philippines (ALSP) and her organization, HRA was awarded top advocacy organization.

She passed the 2019 Bar Examinations and became a full-fledged lawyer by 2020.

She worked as Associate of Javier Santiago Torres & Panghulan Law Offices. She now runs her own RLB Law Office as a solo practitioner and serves as Notary Public for and in Quezon City. She serves as legal consultant to MSMEs and Non-profit organizations. At present, she is the Vice President for Communications of the National Society of Parliamentarians, Inc., the Chief Legislative Staff of Councilor Quin Cruz of Pasig City Council and part-time law instructor in Malayan Colleges Laguna – a Mapua School. Interestingly, she is the creator and blogger of The Young Lawyer PH. Recently, she served as Resident Parliamentarian during the Bangsamoro Youth Parliament held last Nov. 7-11, 2022 at Cotabato City.

A lawyer by profession and an artist by heart.

LOUELA MARIE PRADO

Philippines
He/She/They
Admin Officer

An advocate at heart, Louela is a part of several youth-led organizations in the Philippines with various advocacies ranging from climate justice, environmental protection, gender equality, human rights, SRHR, mental health prioritization, youth empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness. She is currently the Interim Chairperson of Iloilo Pride Team after serving the organization for 4 years as the Admin Officer, Executive Secretary at Proyekto Philippines, Member of Team Dugong Bughaw, and more.

She graduated as Summa Cum Laude at West Visayas State University majoring in English Language Studies and is currently taking up her Masters in English Language Studies at the same institution. During her stay at the university, she served as the Vice Chairperson at the University Student Council and Federated Student Council where she organized programs and initiatives that advocated for student involvement in societal causes and being the voice of the students that lobbies their concerns to the administration.

In July 2022, she was awarded by JCI Regatta as one of the Top Outstanding Students in Iloilo and a Top Circle Awardee which is the most prestigious recognition given by the award-giving body.

RONAN JAMES B. PENUELA, RN

Philippines
He/Him
Project Officer

Ronan passed the Philippines nursing licensure exam in 2022 immediately after graduating his Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of San Agustin. While juggling his academics, he was elected governor of his college’s student council (Nursing Student Council) in 2021 and board member in 2019 where he was awarded the leadership award and Agustino para sa Tao award due to his excellence in service. He is also a certified Safety Officer (SO1) after completing his training.

He is currently a dialysis nurse in training. He handles the Intersex projects of YVC.

ANFERNEE NENOL KAMINAGA

Marshall Islands
He/Him, They/Them
Project Officer for IGNITE! Empowerment Grants Program

Having done some activism for the Marshall Islands both locally and regionally with climate change, youth empowerment, LGBTQI rights, and nuclear injustice, Nenol takes pride in being an advocate for the causes he is passionate in, being a part of Youth Voices Count and taking a step in amplifying young LGBTQI+ voices. This also inspired him to co-found the first Marshallese LGBTQI Youth Support called Brighten the Rainbow. He is featured in “We Have a Dream” which is a collection of stories from young leaders around the world.

THARINDI DEVASURENDRA

Sri Lanka
They/Them
Project Manager

Tharindi is currently a feminist activist and researcher based in Sri Lanka, and has worked with the Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka (YANSL). They are a trainer on advocating for comprehensive sexuality education and providing knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) where they actively advocate for safe abortion and bodily autonomy for women.

One of Tharindi’s brainchild initiatives is an Instagram page which mainly focuses on the process of reaching out to queer women in Sri Lanka, a platform that helps in providing them visibility and strategy direction on programming through social media and other means.

They have completed their Bachelors (BA Honors) in English and Linguistics at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.

JOHNMEL ESTIMAR

Philippines
They/Them
Finance Manager

Johnmel M. Estimar is the founder and senior adviser of La Villa Pride, a grassroots-level organization for LGBTQI in Villa, Iloilo. They are also a member of the Iloilo Pride team, a Community Based Screening motivator for HIV and an LGBTQI Rights Activist. Miles, as they like to be called, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University-Molo, Inc. They also hold an Associate Degree in Cruise Ship Management in the same University.

They have ample experience in clerk and accounting work for nine years from their previous employer, they are currently employed with Youth Voices Count as Finance Manager since 2019.

ANTHONY DE VICENTE LOPEZ

Philippines
He/Him, They/Them
Deputy Executive Director

Mx. Toni graduated with a bachelor’s degree of secondary education majoring in English at the Capiz State University back in 2021. Aside from this, they sought out other educational opportunities such as Advocacy and Project Management at the Women Deliver Digital University (2015), International Women’s Health and Human Rights at Stanford University (2014), and Global Health and Humanitarianism at the University of Manchester (2013).

An advocate of many causes, they are members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, and Y-PEER Pilipinas, founder of the Y-Cap for SRHR, founder of United Colours of CapSU, and Alumnus of Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Back in 2018, they were awarded as the SDG 5 Youth Champion due to the amiable service they have rendered for gender equality.

JUSTIN FRANCIS BIONAT, MA HRD

Philippines
He/His/Him
Executive Director

A learner for life and a seeker of knowledge, Justin graduated his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Political Science at West Visayas State University, Philippines and took on a Master’s of Arts in Human Rights and Democratisation (International Program) at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University, Thailand under the APMA / European Union Scholarship. At present, Justin is pursuing a Juris Doctor (JD) degree (Law Degree) from the College of Law, University of San Agustin, Philippines.

Justin entered Youth Voices Count, Inc. in 2018 while studying in Thailand. He later took on the role of Executive Director beginning 2019 and successfully set up the legal registration of the organization in the Philippines under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since then, he has been leading the organization in various programs and projects centered around LGBTIQ children, adolescents, and youth. Outside Youth Voices Count, Inc., Justin is active in other initiatives in the field of research and law. He was a law student fellow of the Legal Education Advancement Program (LEAP) of the Legal Education Board and the UP Law Center in 2022.

As an aspiring lawyer, he hopes to one day be instrumental in providing legal support for marginalized populations. Justin has also published reports, journal articles, commentaries, and book articles in the fields of law, HIV/AIDS, LGBTIQ, and Human Rights.

In 2018, he was awarded the Young Achiever HERO Award by APCOM Foundation during the HERO Awards reception at the Royal British Embassy in Thailand for his outstanding work on equality and human rights. He is one of the Youth Council members of the Global Fund, an international financing and partnership organization that aims to “attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria”, and a Board Member of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Committee.