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Body as a Metaphor

The story of the first transman who won a bodybuilding competition

Updated: December 7, 2018 7:46:05 am
First transman bodybuilder, Aryan bodybuilder, bodybuilding competition, transman to win bodybuilding competition, Indian Express Aryan trained for over a year for the competition. (Nabeela Paniyath)

Written by Sreeraj TK

For over 10 years, Aryan led a “trapped” life. But things changed for the good when she turned 16. “Finally, my mother understood what exactly I was going through. Two years later, with the support of my family, I underwent transition,” says Aryan. On December 1, Aryan became the first transman in India to win a bodybuilding competition. “It was my dream to participate in the Men’s category. Winning or losing wasn’t even my priority,” he says. He secured the prize in Men’s Physique (Short) category.

The son of a prominent real estate dealer in east Delhi, Aryan stays with his family in a duplex apartment in East Delhi. Here he spent his childhood playing cricket in the park, being one of the boys. In school, he was a part of the inline skating team. “I took to bodybuilding when I joined college as there weren’t any other extra-curricular options,” he says, while showing all the medals he had won in skating.

In school, he was taunted and humiliated. “My friends never said it to my face but I was aware that they used to call me gay, lesbian, chakka. It hurt,” he says.

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His identity as a transperson was kept a secret. This meant high drama in a conservative upper middle-class family. “My mom had a difficult time convincing my father. He just couldn’t understand me. My father thought I was a tomboy. He used to think that it was just a phase,” says Aryan. Eventually, the parents researched about sex reassignment surgery, and few months after his surgery, he came out to the society. Of all the people that stood by him, Aryan feels it was his mother’s support which was the most important. A tattoo on his right arm reads, ‘Everything I am, I owe to my mother.’

Bodybuilding, which began as a part of a fitness routine, soon turned into a passion. When he saw a Facebook post about a bodybuilding competition for transmen in the US, he applied for it but couldn’t participate because his visa was rejected.

He then approached the officials at Muscle Mania, the premier bodybuilding organisation that holds the championships, to participate in the Men’s category. He was told that transpersons would be at a disadvantage if they are competing with cisgender males. But the director was supportive and told him that gender identity isn’t an issue. The organisation’s support was enough for Aryan to train rigorously for the event, for a year.


The 27-year-old law graduate from a college in Mumbai always wanted to study in Delhi University. But he wasn’t able to get through because of the ‘change in documents’ after the sex reassignment. Three years later, in 2014, the Supreme Court passed the landmark NALSA judgment which recognised the fundamental and civil rights of transgender persons.

He says that society still has a lot to learn about the transgender community. What irks him the most are the insensitive and personal questions that people ask. “Don’t ask about their bodies. Don’t ask about their previous lives if they are uncomfortable about it,” he says.

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First published on: 07-12-2018 at 12:05:53 am

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