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JUNE 2023


Becoming Sanjina: The Hyphenated Journey of a Trans-Indo-Fijian-Woman from Vancouver to Toronto

Written by Felicia Gopi

Sunday June 4, 2023


Image courtesy of Quinton Cruickshanks (IG: @_qweenton)

As it is, right now, if you look at the world: drag shows are being banned, all of us trans girls, trans folks in general are being targeted.

Sanjina (she/her) aka Sanjina DaBish Queen, is a charismatic drag queen who is determined to bring Bollywood dance to the forefront of the community courtesy of her Indo-Fijian roots - a heritage that she is undoubtedly proud of.

Through organizing our sit down together it was clear that  the star of Call Me Mother’s first season is booked and busy. Not only does she dream of bringing her art of performing to top stages like Rupaul’s Drag Race, she also dreams of creating pathways to success for future generations who are interested in the art of drag.

Image courtesy of Quinton Cruickshanks (IG: @_qweenton)

Sanjina grew up in Surrey, British Columbia (B.C.) where she quickly realized that “being gay [...] was not okay”. In spite of that she tells a story of the first time she saw a Fijian drag queen in highschool, “I fell in love with her, because the way she moved, the way she danced” she remembers. It was uncomfortable for her, even though she was introduced to drag through her father this way, because the subject was still very taboo for her family and community.


To see how our parents, and our aunts, our uncles, and cousins, and family, loving this beautiful human, who’s dressed as a woman and dancing… it was different, because it didn’t make sense why [...] we were told that we can’t do that, but they were so in love with it.


She painted a familiar picture of admiration for Bollywood dance, mixed with stigma for men dressed as women - a recipe for confusion. Thankfully, Sanjina cites the moment as one that piqued her interest in drag and says that once she discovered Rupaul’s Drag Race thereafter “it was like ‘oh, okay, I get what drag is!’ It all came together”.

Image courtesy of Quinton Cruickshanks (IG: @_qweenton)

When asked about the best part of her job, Sanjina lights up when she says “performing [...] when I perform, I put people in a trance.” She continues to say “when I start performing, everyone starts to dance - that’s the best part of performance when it comes to drag.” 


I pressed her for her secret to doing the splits but I think it’s best to defer to our full length video interview if you really want that answer :). Otherwise, she details how her getting ready process puts her in the right mindset to get on stage and how painting (i.e. doing her makeup) makes her feel safe and ready to go.


“When I paint myself [...] it’s the most safest part of me getting ready [...] and when I put that face on, it’s like the most [...] happiest moment of my life [...]. Because, being a trans girl, I love looking like Sanjina 24/7 - waking up looking like her, sleeping looking like her…”

Image courtesy of Quinton Cruickshanks (IG: @_qweenton)

On her one-woman-show Sanjina delves deeper into her journey and what she has been through to get to where she is today. She hopes to tour ‘Becoming Sanjina’ across the country to bring her story to inspire as many people as she possibly can. Her one-woman-show is not the only thing she wants to tour though, she has her eyes on a “huge” Bollywood tour where she aspires to bring together Bollywood drag artists from different cities.


I think that Bollywood girls are not represented as much, you know what I mean? And when they are, they’re looked down at.” She opens up more about why this is so important to her saying “We face a lot of discrimination because of being a Bollywood queen, ‘cause of our skin colour - you know being a person of colour in this community is very [...], f–king hard.  


She’s not wrong, but her will to create different paths and opportunities for her fellow artists is beyond admirable and something I know she will be able to do.

Image courtesy of Quinton Cruickshanks (IG: @_qweenton)

The conversation naturally evolves into one about discrimination in the queer community and I am immediately saddened but not shocked by her revelation to hear that in the Village, here in Toronto, she’s often told to “bite the bullet”. She describes it as one of the worst things you can hear as a person of colour, only made worse when coming from another person of colour.


Sanjina is incredibly perceptive and gracious in her explanation of these instances saying “it breaks my heart because it obviously shows that that person has been told that, and has been fighting, and all they had to do was bite the bullet, it’s hard. It’s really hard” she states.


The topic of intersectionality comes up when Sanjina points out that not only does the queer community have to face discrimination at a systemic level outside of their community but also, she has to face discrimination within her community.


“I put my love and my soul and my blood into what I do and I perform the house down… but yet, I always walk out, feeling like my skin colour is an issue, or being a trans girl is an issue, it’s hard - we face a lot of discrimination in the village.” she says it so matter-of-factly it hurts to listen to.

Although Sanjina admits she and her peers do face discrimination here in Toronto, she also praises the city as a safe place for her to grow as a drag queen and trans girl. She opens up more about her time growing up in Metro Vancouver and her decision to run away due to the incessant bullying she faced on all fronts. Of Toronto she says, “I found my chosen family here, and you know I found Sanjina. If I didn’t move to Toronto, I don’t think I would ever find drag.”

Her love for the city serves as a great reminder that two things can be true at the same time. Toronto can be an incredibly safe place for those of us with different identities looking for belonging while also having to task itself to continue to do the work to improve on being inclusive across the board.


Sanjina may have found her chosen family here in Toronto but her relationship with her family at home is amazing for her; she credits their education on her journey for where they are at today. In fact, she recently came back from a beautiful visit with family, one where her niece and nephews played an important role.


It took them for my dad and for my siblings to kinda understand the “she” [and] the “Sanji” and it was amazing. To see these little boys [...] correct my dad, about you know, my pronouns, it just kinda was cute!


She gets emotional talking about her family and you can tell how much love they share.


Describing what it has been like to transition, she says it’s an “on-and-off” journey and also something that she feels in her soul. “For those who are in the dark right now, I know it is a scary process, but you’re gonna get there, and this is a fight, and trust me, it’s the most magical journey ever”


She also points out that it’s a scary time as well, “to step outside of my house like this - I am so scared.” It’s a harsh reality where she says the positivity is met with a lot of shakiness in the process.

Image courtesy of Quinton Cruickshanks (IG: @_qweenton)



We shift gears onto what it’s like to be Indo-Fijian. Sanjina starts off by admitting to me that she wasn’t necessarily a proud Fijian when she was growing up. Although that may sound shocking to some, it’s a common theme I hear about in the Indo-Caribbean community as well, so I was intrigued to hear why she felt that way.


She describes to me that she faced a narrative of Fijians being looked down on as “dirty” among other things associated with indentured-servitude by members of the South-Asian community and how she internalized that feeling. 


She describes the irony of learning to love her Fijian identity only once she moved to Toronto, given that back home, there was a large Fijian community and here in Toronto, the presence is quite small. 


Sanjina is extremely well-versed on the history of Indo-Fijians and she assures me “I love being Fijian and I think it’s very important to represent where you come from and that’s the thing about being Fijian it's the magic of all these cultures.”


Her journey to self-acceptance is a relatable arc that many Indo-Caribbeans can also understand. Sanjina also credits the Indo-Caribbean community for welcoming her here in Toronto, making her feel a lot less alone.


Sanjina’s road to where she is now is one that’s gone through cultural identity development, personal transitions, and continued activism for the rights of those within her community. She’s more than a drag performer, she’s a cool aunt, an aspiring teacher of the arts, and a proud Indo-Fijian.


About the Author

Felicia is the editor in chief of Story, a newsletter by the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association. She also works in digital marketing with a background in beauty and fashion. She began volunteering with the Indo-Caribbean Association to contribute directly to her community and to learn from other like-minded individuals.

For more information visit

Story is an Indo-Caribbean newsletter designed to bring Canadian Caribbean culture to the forefront. Explore Indo-Caribbean news, identity, and culture online.

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