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Why Nagarjuna failed miserably during crossdressing task on Bigg Boss 4

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Telugu Reality Show Bigg Boss Season 4 had a task for the inmates of the house on Sunday. The task was to indulge in cross dressing, which the host Nagarjuna said was to encourage gender equality, but failed miserably. Instead it turned out to be hurtful and stigmatic, and promotes trans-phobia, writes Bharatanatyam dancer, and drag artist

Scene from Sunday episode with men dressing up as women

In India, Crossdressing is being practiced for ages now and art forms like dance, music and theatre have intersectionality with crossdressing. Crossdressing is artistry for some and just some movements of pleasure for another. Art forms like Drag have always been a way to express oneself through cross-dressing.

Big Boss Telugu is highest-grossing reality show endorsed by StarMaa TV, and Hotstar featuring actor Nagarjuna as the host. In the recent task, we see that the housemates were given a task to cross-dress into different gender roles. Evidently the task was adopted from Big Boss Kannada. The host claims that this was to encourage gender equality but failed drastically as turned out to be hurtful and stigmatic instead.

Crossdressing is artistry for some and just some movements of pleasure for another. Art forms like Drag have always been a way to express oneself through cross-dressing.

Here are the top five reasons of how Big Boss failed to achieve what it promised otherwise:

·       Promoting Drag Phobia: Cisgender men and women using derogatory words against LGBTQIA+ Community:

The host Nagarjuna starts with says” Chi Chi Chi kucho , Chudalekapotunam ninu” to a cisgender man dressed up in women’s clothing. These words clearly show Drag phobia when a man transverses into women’s clothing.  It’s quite easy to say as a cis man to another cis man but hard to see the reality on how this can induce hatred for a queer person whose gender expression is to cross-dress while people, being inspired by this mock their approach.

·       Using Trans Phobic words which mock gender diaspora:

Gender dysphoria is indeed in real and it’s always a traumatic experience for trans-people. However, in the show, a participant easily says that “Nenu yento nake ardamavatamledu” which means “I don’t know what I am”. This statement is cliche and transphobic as it ridicules the idea of gender dysphoria and mocks the struggle which a transperson goes through.

·       Caricaturing Sissy-ness and abbreviated feminine expressions by the participants:

Majority of the participants are overly exaggerating sissy-ness or effeminate expression forgetting that they are cisgender people and there are people in reality whose normal way of expression is quite effeminate. Indirectly the program is here to create laughter out of the experience of homosexual, gender fluid and non-confirming men’s expression. Such kind of ideology when shown to a larger audience pool, creates a nightmare for the real people of queer community where the show is shown as a reference point to normalize queer mocking, as it brings the notion that “if Nagarjuna can say it, why can’t i”

·       Demoralizing Women

The intent to create awareness was sidetracked so much that the entire cacophony is degrading women itself for whom this idea was made.  Men dressing up as women,  stripping on national television, and rubbing thighs, is fulgurous and humiliating women. It shows the patriarchal pervert-ness of men towards woman’s body.  There were dialogues used for Pun, such as “Adukena atannu niku wrong step nerpinchadu” is a blatant double meaning and c grade words which are excruciating.

·       Confusing with the idea of trans-sexuality and cross-dressing:

Not every man who dresses as women is a transgender person; some participants were clapping like a transgender person towards each other. Cross-dressing has nothing to do with transgender identity. A man can cross-dress as woman for self-pleasure, art, for sexuality or fetish but trans-identity is not a choice. These actions are indeed a direct insult thrown towards the trans-community.

·       Usage of Problematic songs such as “Chudu Pinnama”

Songs like Chudu Pinnama from a Telugu movie, are cringing and hurtful. This being played in the background, is so disturbing. This song in originality was to make fun of the transgender women or the hijzada community and using the same song here makes it even more inappropriate. While Telugu States themselves lack in acceptance of lgbtqia+ people, where hate crimes are in peek and transphobia still being a thing, such kind of irresponsible portrayal is just unacceptable.

So for people who want to know about what it means. Crossdressing is the act of wearing items of clothing not commonly associated with one’s sex. Crossdressing has been used for purposes of disguise, comfort, and self-expression in modern times and throughout history. Crossdressers are most certainly welcome and to a very large extent are part of the LGBTQ+ community. They are trans or TG and sometimes also fit under other letters as well. Many who eventually transition experiment with gender and the idea of a new life by crossdressing. It can be a very real part of a transitional process.

Many men love to dress but have been taught to be deeply ashamed of this activity. Transphobia and homophobia can run deep even in people who are part of the community. These men deny any association with anything they perceive as even vaguely homosexual. It is this group that rather uniquely disavows their place under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Shows such as Big Boss  Telugu are not firstly open to include drag performers, transgender people and queer people in the show but also inducing hate through such not so well understood concepts is traumatic for queer individuals.

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