Meet Zoya Thomas Lobo India’s First Transgender Photojournalist

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Zoya Thomas Lobo

LGBTQ in India is a tough topic as not many people have been enlightened with the thought of liberal modernity. They are stuck with the values of yesteryears that don’t make much sense in the modern world. Thus growing up as a transgender is a tough task especially in a country like India. But then, there are some who despite the hard challenges had come ahead conquering the so-called notions and norms of the society restricting their heart to speak. One such person is Zoya Thomas Lobo who shattered all the obstacles and came out like a star.   

But before we dive deep into her story, let’s talk about the glorifying world of media and entertainment. The fabulous world of lights and cameras might not be the same for people of choice. India is a country facing gender crises at the moment, with not only women but majorly with the LGBTQ community. Diversity and inclusion is only the show of limelight but the ground reality remains far contrasting and Zoya seems to be yet another victim of such victimization. But it is the courage of Zoya that totally changed her fate and made her India’s First Transgender Photojournalist.

The Amazing Story Of Zoya Thomas Lobo

Zoya was just as common as every one of us until the government announced lockdown in 2020 amid the wake of coronavirus. Lobo like many other workers was suffering to meet her last needs. Thankfully, few good wishers came to her rescue and provided her with a sufficient ration. But this was not enough and Zoya always strived for better. One day, while returning from picking up rations, she saw 2,000 people at Bandra station. They were the migrant workers who were protesting because they wanted to go back to their villages. Seeing the scene, Zoya rushed home and grabbed her camera to click pictures of the scene. This was the most usual attempt by Zoya. Fortunately, the pictures went viral and many media outlets used them in their cover stories.

“Some of them used my pictures, some even gave me a byline, and that was when I got introduced to photojournalism,” said Zoya Thomas Lobo in an interview with The Better India.

Though her pictures were highly acknowledged, she still struggled for a full-time job. She is a press cardholder and can report from anywhere she wishes but due to lack of a job, there isn’t much she can do. Hence, she works as a freelancer for various publications but meets her financial needs by begging in the Mumbai local train.

Zoya Thomas Lobo

Zoya Thomas Lobo And Her Struggle With Patriarchy

Unlike many Trans people, Zoya’s life was fortunate enough to have an accepting family. She came out as Gay at the age of 11 when she found herself different from the rest of the boys. She grew up in Mahim’s Kapad Bazar, not too far from the railway lines with her single mother and a sister. She also had many friends with whom she felt comfortable with her identity. At the age of 17, Zoya met her Guru who recognized her as a transgender and introduced her to the group. She raised Zoya like her own and taught her many things about their work like clapping. She also learned many other skills from her and even went earning along with them.

As transgender people don’t have many opportunities of having a decent job, most of them rely on begging and performing and so thus Zoya. At first, her mother was a bit hesitant about her job but after witnessing what Zoya does, her mother accepted her as the way she is. But begging in Mumbai locals was never meant for Zoya and she always wanted to do something bigger and better. Thus by managing a savings of 30 thousand, Zoya bought her first camera and that’s how her journey started.

Once in 2018, Zoya watched a short film ‘Hijra Shap Ki Vardaan’ on YouTube and felt there were many loopholes in the plot. She commented her doubts in the comment box and surprisingly got selected to act in the Film’s sequel and had a chance to win an award for her performance too. The film amassed over 4 million views on YouTube. She now works for the betterment of the community and the upliftment of many young talents like her.

Zoya’s story proves that ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’  She conquered the gender atrocities and is still fighting for her place in the hierarchy. It’s unfortunate that despite being recognized by the Indian Government, our society still scuffles with accepting the LGBTQ community. They don’t have any access to having a good job in society and thus rely on things that they don’t wish to do. Our country has many such individuals like Naaz Joshi, Gauri Sawant, or Laxmi Narayan Tripathi who had made India proud on an international level. And just like them, there are hundreds of them marking an end to India’s patriarchal story. The only thing we need right now is a change in mindset that does not revolve around the patriarchal myths. 

The team of The Indianness requests everyone to come forward to help the LGBTQ community and give them work in your firms so that the equality that we all strive for truly reflects what it means.  

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