Oinam Hemabati, founding member of ETA, a community group of trans men, lesbians and bisexual women in Manipur, presents glimpses from a unique football contest
Garnering positive visibility and empowerment for lesbians, bisexual women and trans men in Manipur through football – crisp but ambitious is the agenda of our three-year-old community group Empowering Trans Ability (ETA).
We co-organize an annual tournament called ‘Village Level 7-A-Side Open Football Tournament’ along with youth clubs and NGOs. While this under-17 tournament is meant for all genders, it is difficult to find enough teams of lesbians, bisexual women and trans men for the competitive segment of the event. Most community members prefer to play as part of the women’s teams and not be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This year (2017) the tournament had 16 men’s teams, and only ETA and Women Football Association from Kakching turned up for the women’s contest. The photographs show an exhibition match between the two teams, which was won 3-0 by ETA (players in striped t-shirts with Emirates as sponsors). The match was played in a simple village ground. We enrolled new ETA members after the match.
MLA Heikham Dingo (from Sekmai constituency), Parliamentary Secretary, Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of Manipur inaugurated the match (above), along with Randhoni Lairikyengbam from NGO Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII) and freelance journalist and gender rights activist Thingnam Anjulika Samom (forefront below). Around 70 people watched the match.
Rains have delayed the completion of the tournament, which started in May. The final match is pending – till the slush from the football ground dries out.
You’re very welcome to join us for the tournament – as a spectator or supporter. Let’s kick-off a revolution together!
All photographs courtesy: ETA. The author can be seen third from left in the front row in the photograph above that shows the victorious ETA team along with well-wishers and ETA group members after the exhibition match. A few queer activists from Manipur can also be seen among the well-wishers.