When the winner of Mr Thrissur Praveen Nath, a 23-year-old trans man came to Thrissur from his native town Elavancherry in Palakkad, all he wished to do was pursue drama, social work and his studies. The idea of pursuing fitness and bodybuilding had not crossed his mind, it was only during the lockdown when he found himself intrigued by bodybuilding.
Praveen tells that back in his hometown the gyms denied training to him because of his identity. "I have been open about my gender identity and when I would tell the trainers that I am a trans man and I wish to pursue bodybuilding. They would straightaway decline to take me in."
After coming to Thrissur, he joined an LGBTIQ organization called Sahayathrika where he works as Advocacy Coordinator. Upon mentioning his wish to join a gym he was connected to Vino Mohan, former Mr India and Nath's personal trainer.
"I have three brothers who are into fitness. I had seen them working out and I was always a little curious about it. When I got into the world of fitness only then did I realize that I am passionate about it," explained Praveen.
Praveen revered Aryan Pasha, the first Indian trans man to win awards in bodybuilding. Praveen soon confided in his trainer Mr Mohan about his dream to run for the pageants in the transgender category.
"I specifically wanted to run in the trans man category as it would have stood out as an example for my community," Praveen shared.
Kerala didn't have particular pageants for trans men. Vinu Mohan talked to the organizers who counselled him that Praveen ran for Mr Thrissur instead.
At the time Mr Thrissur was conducted Praveen was barely three months into his training and he couldn't arrange a sponsor for himself. Praveen hails from a humble background. Despite the financial ordeals his mother arranged 50,000 rupees for the championship.
"My mother didn't understand the concept of 'bodybuilding career'. It took some time and a lot of explaining to convince her," he chuckled.
As a person who is currently under the gender affirmation process, it was harder for him than his other competitors. His diet regime combined with testosterone gave him nausea and even fevers at times. An intense upper body workout would give him pain in his pectoral muscles due to the top surgery.
"In front of the dream which I saw for myself, these problems seemed trivial and bearable. With training and discipline, these things passed," he added.
His determination came to fruition and he won the Mr Thrissur championship. Praveen will soon get reception at his native place.
"Earlier the society blamed my mother for my gender identity as if it were a disease. Now the same people congratulate my mother for my achievements," Praveen told. "Amma is very happy now and that's what I need," he added.
Praveen aspires to open an LGBTIQ inclusive gym for people from his community. Many trans men, like him, have to hide their identity to just get admitted to the gym. "People say all sorts of things to me and people will keep saying it till my death. I do not wish to leave fitness because of them and I will not do so. I want to open a safe space for the LGBTIQ community and train those who are passionate about fitness or bodybuilding," he concluded.
Praveen Nath is currently training for the Mr Kerala championship which will take place next month.