Red Lipstick: The Men in My Life is an autobiographical work written by transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi. It is written in first person, essentially tracing her life from a traumatic and disconcerting early life to a secure and empowering adulthood.
The book is written in sections, each of which focuses on a different person or aspect of Laxmi’s life. There’s a section called “Raju’s Monologue,” for instance, which refers to Laxmi’s character at home, her early life name Raju. In striking comparison, “Prince Manvendra’s Monologue: Laxmi, My Sister,” authored by the Prince himself, describes his familial connection with Laxmi.
The book also includes Hindu mythology and religion, with sections titled “The Creator,” “The Preserver,” and “The Destroyer.” These demonstrate not only Laxmi’s expertise in ancient Indian manuscripts but also her comprehension and appreciation of their significance.
Laxmi identifies as a hijra, a word that loosely translates to “transgender” in English. She was born with Raju- a set of male sexual organs- but has never felt completely masculine. She spent her formative life befuddled and angst-ridden. She was raped by her cousins, shunned at school, and felt unwelcome.
When she discovers that there are others like her, she does everything she can to connect with them, form a community, and ensure their well-being. As a result, she takes on the character of Laxmi. She embraces her feminine side and her calling for social work while dedicating her life to the improvement of sexual and gender minorities, all while wearing silk sarees and bold lipstick.
The book is about topics that the average Indian isn’t entirely familiar or comfortable with. Nonetheless, it strikes a chord with the reader because it is authentic and intimate. We are never pressured to ‘like’ Laxmi. She tends to be aggressive, conceited, and impulsive.
She has exploited others and levied her vengeance on them. However, the humaneness of these acts, as well as the easiness and candidness in which she states them, is fascinating. She is a true character, both climactic and evocative. Despite her difficulties, she has attempted to concentrate on her path of empowerment, as she states near the end of her book. “I am a celebration, and that’s the story I want to tell.”
Reading Red Lipstick offers a glimpse into the existence of a person we’ve seen on TV before, whether it’s Sach Ka Saamna or Satyamev Jayate. It allows us to understand her pilgrimage from a vulnerable child to a UN spokesperson, and it confronts us with India’s cruel and brutal complexities regarding minority groups and their daily struggles.
This book is a must-read for everyone who wants to understand the LGBTQ scene in India and how they can help to improve the situation. An unapologetic and remarkably honest narrative, Red Lipstick: The Men in My Life by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is available online, get your copy today!