“Body Is Mine, I The Soul”: Transgender Nude Artist Ratri in Conversation with Eye
Ratri Rajesh Saha is a transgender woman working in TCS. She is also a revolutionary queer icon, who is choosing to express herself by using her body as a canvas. She is creating a queer space through which body, expression and identity intersects and distorts itself. She expresses herself through nude pictures, boldly celebrating revolution and selfhood. We, here at the Eye Art Collective, go on a freewheeling talk with her, trying to get a glimpse into her mind and how she executes her politics.
When did you come to associate yourself with the trans identity?
Since I was a child, I used to dress like a girl in my room. I was born with effeminate gestures and mentality and sensitivity and all of it. When I was in 10th standard, I heard of the term ‘Gay’ and I used to think that I am gay. Then in 2014, when I started attending many LGBT sensitization events, I realised that I am actually transgender. It’s not that I am only sexually and mentally attracted towards men, it’s also that I myself am a woman trapped in a male body.
As a transgender woman, how have you been (or not been) accepted in your family and society?
I have always been positively accepted by my family and society. However, some have tried to convince me to change myself. But the way in which I educated them about transgender identity helped them accept the way I am.
Yes challenges were there. My mother used to request me to not to go outside wearing female attire, but she didn’t have any personal problem. After I convinced her about how positivity and confidence always wins, she is proud to say that she is the mother of a transgender woman. In my office, most of my colleagues love me exactly the way I am and they respect me as a woman. My landlord, friends, and cousins – they have all accepted me for who I am.
Any experience that you might want to share?
An incident which I can’t ever forget was something of a rude lesson. In Kolkata, there is no security for people like me. It was July 2015, and I was returning in a taxi after a party. The place was Exide crossing, where 30 guys with 10 bikes made a circle around my taxi and pulled me away. They took off all of my clothes and then just left. I was not in state to even note down their number plates. It severely affected me. I was depressed and a doctor prescribed anti-depressants. Slowly, I have recovered but till date, every time I walk alone, I get scared when I see guys on bikes passing me by.
When did you start experimenting with nudity as an art form and have you faced any stigma?
I started taking nudes using the self timer option of my mobile camera. One of my friends, Chandraneev Bramah sketched me nude for the first time and I have posed previously for my best friend Ashish Singha. I post these on Facebook and since my friend list is full of photographers I actually don’t face much stigma creating nude art. But yes, I am blocked by a public group on Facebook because I posted a nude picture there. Generally, though, people are very appreciative.
My plan is to educate people. I want them to know that showing your body without clothes is not vulgar. It’s merely the invention of clothes which has made your private parts private. Our Creator has not made any of this private. I always try to show to them that the body is just a costume for the soul. I say “Body is mine, I the soul”.
Do you think your art form is a strong method of dissent and powerful proclamation of rights?
My creations are not always for rights .It’s just a creation most of the time. If we always think about rights, we will miss out on moments. I create art because I feel I am beautiful. My body, my features, my gestures, my expressions, my everything. Nude art gives me confidence that I am even more beautiful without make up and clothes. Here the power comes whether society accepts me or rejects me. I am beautiful in my way
What do you think are the main differences between cis and trans expression?
I personally can’t differentiate the expressions. Expressing is an individual choice. There are so many trans people whose don’t express themselves as trans. So he or she becomes cis. There are differences within trans expressions as well. Every trans person doesn’t express themselves in the same way. Some of them don’t even know what being trans is all about. They just dress like a woman and nothing else. Some cis people also become trans when the time is right .It’s all about time, confidence and the wish.
Do you have a message for all the trans artists out there?
Love yourself the way you are. As long as you don’t accept and love yourself, others won’t either. If you feel like a boy or a girl, it’s you. Always remember different is special. Enjoy all adventures and waves of life. Good or bad, any experience is positive and a lesson. Live the moment.
Trans nudes are things we are conditioned to think of uneasily. That is what makes Ratri’s expression unique, and queer. The Eye Art Collective encourages her whole heartedly. We set ourselves out on a new journey of understanding the space through which expression, identity and the body interact and distorts itself according to different perspectives.