She once walked a whole day, barefoot, begging for alms between suburbs of Vile Parle, Khar and Andheri. The two-rupee coin, her only earning that day, felt heavy on her hand. Barely 24 hours before, she had spent a night in the Mankhurd police lock-up, for hitting an abusive brother-in-law after he ill-treated her sister.
That was in July 2014.
Today, 32-year-old Vickey, working as a receptionist at the office of National Human Rights Law Network, is confident sharing her life, even if it means recounting some painful memories.
As a transgender with a proper designation and a regular working hour, Vicky says it has given her a sense of dignity and a new purpose to life.
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“The train journey back home that night was longer than I imagined,” says Vicky, who recalls having sat crying at Elphinstone railway platform, wondering about her future and even contemplating suicide.
“When you are a transgender, trapped inside a wrong body, the world always looks difficult,” she says.
What came as a boon for Vicky was a 2014 Supreme Court verdict recognising transgenders as the third gender, which, activists say, gives them the right to seek equal work opportunities.
“I was in dire need of help because of the case against me. I needed legal help, but was instead offered a job, much to my surprise. It changed my perspective completely and gave me a new zeal to live,” says Vicky, adding that she can never forget July 20, 2014, the day she was hired.
When she first came to the office of National Human Rights Law Network, Vicky was dressed in men’s formals. As time progressed and confidence swelled, she gradually shifted to more feminine attire. Today, she is much at ease in a yellow kurta, worn over a rather fitting pair of leggings.
Work-wise, she now aims to become an advocate’s clerk at the High Court for the firm. A lawyer from the firm says, “We are now planning to train her so that she can work as an advocate’s clerk at the High Court. We also want her to pursue higher studies so she can consider other options with the legal system.”
While a salaried job boosted Vicky’s confidence, some incidents continued to leave behind a bitter taste. Once a man, upon spotting her in the gents compartment on a local, asked her why she was returning home so early when transgenders ventured out late night finding customers. “First, he poked fun at me saying if somebody like was me was being offered a job, grimmer days were ahead for people like him. I corrected him saying I had a day job and even I had the right to live with dignity. He apologised on hearing that,” she recalls.
Even today, while travelling from Prabhadevi to the Fort-based law firm, Vicky has to brave taunts, but she says she has begun getting her “share of respect” though the acceptance will come only slowly.
Having been ridiculed by her father for “dressing like a woman” while growing up, or when she showed enthusiasm for joining a Lavani troupe, Vicky says she has come a long way from the days when she was forcibly made to cut her hair and wear shorts and asked to take up “man jobs” like running a taxi, or newspaper vendor’s to shoulder responsibility. It was her income which her family used to get her “macho brother” married off.
Vicky says she is now able to pay off the interest on the loan she took for her sister’s wedding. “A fixed salary also means I am able to take care of my monthly expenses and contribute towards the family expenditure.”
“It’s time now for transgenders to rise up and claim their rights, especially in the light of the Supreme Court order that recognises us as a third gender,” says Vicky, who had registered herself with the transgender community 20 years ago.
Sonal Gani, who works with Humsafar, an NGO working for transgender community, says most offices are unaware about the SC verdict. “Offices do not know that the community has be recognised as the third gender. Unless offices are sensitised and made aware, it will be difficult to bring transgenders to the mainstream,” says Giani.
“Nothing, not even our body, can hold us back if we aim for the unachievable,” feels Vicky.
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