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Manipur’s First Transgender Doctor Is on the Frontlines Fighting Against COVID-19

. 2 min read . Written by Vanshika Goenka
Manipur’s First Transgender Doctor Is on the Frontlines Fighting Against COVID-19

Beoncy Laishram, a 27-year-old resident medical officer at a private hospital in Manipur’s capital city, Imphal, is a beacon of hope for the visible yet marginalised Nupi Maanbi (transwoman) community in the state. 

Laishram is not only Manipur’s first transgender doctor, but is also Northeastern India’s first transgender doctor. A former student of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), She changed her name to Beoncy in 2013 when participating in a beauty pageant, Miss Trans Queen Northeast. 

In an interview with Times of India, Beoncy recalls her turbulent coming out journey. “I got through MBBS at RIMS in 2011, and decided to come out to my family in 2013. My father was so upset he tried to kill himself,” she says. “I went right back into the closet. Around 2016, I realised I could no longer live that life. It was when I began openly identifying as a Nupi Maanbi.”

Organisations should be more open and supportive for transgender employees to thrive

‘Nupi Maanbi’ as an identity has existed in the conscience of the people of Manipur, but the community continues to be marginalised. Beoncy has been lucky in that front – she has a better relationship with her parents, and is also in a long-term relationship. However, most importantly, she feels safe at work because she is surrounded by supportive colleagues. 

“While Nupi Maanbis do need to get out of the rut they often find themselves in, it’s also up to us to give them opportunities they deserve,” said Sorokhaibam Jugindra, medical superintendent of Shija Hospitals and Research Institute, where Beoncy works. “Human beings are all equal. We didn’t look at Beoncy’s gender while hiring her. There was some curiosity among staff initially, but that was all.”

Beoncy Laishram is an important representation of transgender women in Manipur

Beoncy identifies as a post-operative transwoman, and she helps disadvantaged Nupi Maanbis get access to healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic has quashed livelihoods left, right, and centre, but people from disadvantaged communities such as Nupi Maanbis have suffered the most. The beauty parlour businesses in Imphal – in which most Nupi Maanbis are involved to gain financial independence – have been shut during this time, and women like Beoncy give them hope and confidence. Says prominent transgender activist Shanta Khurai of the All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association, “She represents aspiration among the Nupi Maanbis. We don’t just work as beauticians.”

Beoncy is also currently preparing for her postgraduate entrance examinations.

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