Transgender Woman's Mother Gifts Her a Sari As An Offering Of Acceptance

Transgender Woman's Mother Gifts Her a Sari As An Offering Of Acceptance

Kama La Mackerel is a Montreal-based community organizer, movement builder and multi-disciplinary conceptual artist whose work focusses on narration and cultural production as modes of anti-colonial resistance. She is the founder and hostess of a very unique queer open stage in Montreal, called Gender Blender. Kama is also a transgendered woman.

Having been born in Mauritius, in a mixed-race and inter-religious family of East African and South Asian origins, she moved to India as a young adult before finally moving to Canada. As such, wearing multiple identities was hardly stranger than fiction to her, yet, the journey towards acceptance with her gender identity was far from complete. Recently, Kama attended her best friend’s wedding, and for the first time in her journey, her mother gifted her favourite sari to Kama, insisting that she wear it. We tracked down the inspiring activist, to understand better how the symbolic gesture affected her, and why she felt it was important to put the story out.

Like many queer and trans people, Kama La has had (and still has) a long and complex relationship with my parents. “It’s only recently that we have started working on our relationship, and that we’ve been approaching each other from a place of understanding, acceptance and forgiveness,” she admits to Homegrown. She’s also been luckier than many given that her parents have even come to see many of her poetry and art performances—which are at once both deeply political and personal. Through it, she explores cultures, religions, spiritualities and genders that were lost through the violence of colonialism, and she uses that art and poetry to try to reimagine the past, and recreate the future by centering everyday resilience, and celebrating that resilience. “Art also allows me to articulate my gender identity in my own words, on my own terms, all while acknowledging the long lineage of trans resistance that I come from. So I think seeing me on stage gave them a deeper glimpse into who I am: they could finally see parts of me that I had always fearfully hidden from them. And this in turn allowed them to slowly get to know me better, and open up to me and accept me. We’re still working on a lot of things, but on the whole, they are very supportive of my art!

As to why she put this sari story out, Kama offered us an explanation as poignant and relevant as the story itself. “Trans people are almost never portrayed in the media, and if they are ever represented, it is never on their own terms, as complex and fully realized humans: they get portrayed as uni-dimensional comic relief, or as tragic characters living in deep loneliness, who die and whom nobody remembers,” she explains. “As a transgender artist and a community worker, I consider it extremely important for me to re-present and re-narrate myself and my lived experiences. I find social media useful in allowing us to build and disseminate an alternative archive of who we are, to be able to leave traces behind so that we can find each other, so that we can break through our solitude and build community.”

For any woman who has had to face the inevitable tuck-pin-spin-pin-pleat-pin-drape that sari wearing entails, that the first person to welcome you into those folds of womanhood is the mother, or the closest thing to one, is common knowledge. There is a multitude of emotion and acceptance woven into this gesture from mother to daughter, and while Kama’s joy and celebration of this moment is evident in the defining moment, we were curious to know how her mother felt as well.

​”I think she felt proud,” exclaims Kama La. “It had been a couple of years since she had been suggesting that I wear a sari. I think it’s her way of asking for forgiveness and telling me that she finally sees me as who I am, and that she is willing to put in the work to get to know me and honour me for who I am. I think she is also struck by how alike we both look!”

Even as we appreciate the emotional nuances of such a heart-warming story, however, it’s vital to acknowledge to the importance of seeing more such voices and stories out there. As Kama La herself puts it best, “It is important for me to leave traces, images, testimonies, footprints, particularly for younger trans folks and for the future generations, so that they know that we exist, that we are here and have always been here. I want them to know that our stories are valuable, touching, loving, redeeming, raging, hilarious, celebratory, tender, multi-dimensional, nuanced and characterized with beauty.” How else will we ever acknowledge them as the same as everybody else?

Below is the status she posted on her facebook post along with the picture of her in the gorgeous blue sari. Scroll on for her own beautiful words on the gift.

“Thank you mom for gifting me your own favourite sari and for insisting that I wear it to my best friend’s wedding. My relationship with my family, just like my relationship to femininity, has always been a fraught one. My family having been the first site of punishment that I experienced for transgressing gender norms. These two relationships are tied in a knot that I’ve had to unravel, one alongside each other, over the years.

Embroidered in these six yards of silk are the thirty years it took me to find who i am and slowly become who i was meant to be; hidden in the deep blue of this sari are three decades of navigating rejection and acceptance, punishment and compassion, rage and forgiveness; threaded in this fabric is a lifetime of silence and dejection, the weaving of the unspoken over my skin, the (un)wrapping of shame around my body; embedded in this garment are the feet of a young child walking in pain, the hands of a suicidal teenager holding the pieces of a broken heart, the lungs of an insecure adult still learning how to breathe a steady rhythm…

But wrapped around my body is also the gift of peace & acceptance: an offering of love, a request for forgiveness, the recognition of souls beaming truth in the sunlight, and the possibility of re-imagining, re-creating and re-enchanting ourselves, each other and our relationships.”

For more information about Kama and her work, check out her website.