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Registration Desk on the day of the audition. Photo: Sujatro Ghosh

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Contestant #6 Niharika auditions; Fashion Designer Rishi Raj, Activist Rudrani Chettri, Nida Mahmood and Model Aishwarya Sushmita are present to judge. Photo: Sujatro Ghosh

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Activist Rudrani Chettri poses for a photograph. Photo: Sujatro Ghosh

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It's time to audition for Contestant #5. Photo: Sujatro Ghosh

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Contestant #1 Ritika getting ready for the audition. Photo: Sujatro Ghosh

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Contestant Number 6 Niharika in between audition. Photo: Sujatro Ghosh

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Contestant #6 Niharika getting ready for the audition. Photo: Sujatro Ghosh

India's first transgender modelling agency held its audition & it was awesome

Priyata Brajabasi @PriyataB

Legal acceptance of the transgender community was a hard won fight - and one to be proud of. But now there's another, harder battle to win - one where society accepts the transgender as both equal, and beautiful.

And transgender activists in New Delhi have just started India's first transgender modelling agency to do precisely that.

Read: Transgender community to get central assistance in education, social security and cash

In a community that is estimated to be over 5 lakh strong, there's unquestionably both diversity and beauty to be found - and that's what Delhi-based LGBTQI charity The Mitr Trust is looking for.

Rudrani Chettri, founder and head of the charity, has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to launch the agency that will be "run by transgender people, for transgender people."

On 7 February, the agency held its first auditions in Delhi.

'It's a desperate desire to be seen and to be accepted into mainstream society and to get jobs like everyone else. I hope this initiative creates a spark in young transgenders to follow their dreams,' said Chettri. "This is an effort by the transgender community to improve our social and personal image, and to raise awareness about the serious issues of discrimination and marginalisation that we face."

The project has found a creative partner in fashion stylist and photographer Rishi Raj who is working to secure a spread with the transgender models in a top fashion magazine.

'I want this photo shoot to enhance and highlight the natural androgynous beauty of the transgender/hijra community,' Raj told IANS.

The agency aims to identify five top transgender models and help launch them into mainstream fashion media. Last year seemed to signal the tipping point in transgender visibility in the West - Laverne Cox fronted Time magazine and Caitlyn Jenner - formerly Olympian Bruce Jenner - spoke publicly of coming to terms with her trans identity on the cover of Vanity Fair.

Time got it right when it asked if transgender rights are the next civil rights frontier. It's about time.

All photos by Sujatro Ghosh

Edited by Payal Puri

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Priyata Brajabasi

Priyata Brajabasi @PriyataB