How Praveen Nath became Kerala’s first trans bodybuilder

When the world is observing Pride Month, Praveen Nath—Kerala’s first trans bodybuilder, who made history by winning the Mr Kerala title in the “special” category in August 2021—is sweating it out in the gym.

The 25-year-old is preparing hard every day for the International Health Sports & Fitness Festival (IHFF) 2022, scheduled to be held in Mumbai between October 28 and 30. Hitting the gym multiple times and following his diet to a T, Nath is determined to win the competition and script history again.

“Pride Month is when people of all identities come together and rejoice,” said Nath, who currently works as an advocacy coordinator at Sahayathrika Human Rights Organization, to DH. “I am not going for any Pride events and focusing on my training because the Competition in Mumbai is looming.”

Nath, who hails from Nemmara, a small town in the Palakkad district of Kerala, had a relatively uneventful childhood, and life was smooth-sailing till he was in the 10th standard.

But while his school teachers were open to his sexuality, his parents were not as supportive.

“They thought it was a phase; they took me for counseling and asked me to focus on my studies. They promised me their full support once I passed out of school,” said Nath.

Nath’s life became tougher when he joined college. He was mercilessly shamed and bullied by his teachers and classmates and was forced to drop out. Later in 2019, he joined a different college, where he became one of the first three students in Kerala to get admission under the transgender quota. However, even though the environment here was welcoming, Nath had to leave because of financial problems.

Nath’s passion for bodybuilding began when he started his hormone therapy.

“But I couldn’t pursue it because of my financial condition. It was after I joined the Sahayathrika Human Rights Organization in 2020 that I was able to join a gym. The first competition I won was that of Mr Thrissur in April 2021,” said Nath.

Praveen Nath receiving the Mr Kerala award with his coach Vinu Mohan (R). Credit: Praveen Nath

Nath’s life took a U-turn when he met his coach Vinu Mohan, a former Mr Kerala himself, who understood his zeal for bodybuilding. Mohan even went out of his way to convince the Kerala State Body Building Association to include a “special” category in the competition.

Talking about how life changed after winning the title of Mr Kerala, Nath said, “I consider it a miracle.”

“Earlier, everyone teased me when I used to train and do exercises. But now, with the support of my family, friends, and trainer, I have finally achieved my goal. In fact, to my surprise, the Public Service Commission (PSC) ) included a question on ‘Kerala’s first transgender bodybuilding champion’ in their exam.”

With his family having accepted him wholeheartedly, Nath is in a good place now.

“My mother has gained a lot of respect. Many people who had stopped speaking to us after I came out, greet and talk to us now,” he said. “My family is with me today. My mother has accepted me as a son, and my brothers have also accepted me as a younger brother.”

“Now, I am focused on preparing for IHFF 2022. In the long run, I want to open a gender-neutral gym,” said Nath.

(Kartikeya is a journalist from Delhi passionate about covering culture, politics, conflict, food, and human interest stories.)


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