Is motherhood a right exercised by just women? Does the feeling come applied with terms and conditions? In a country where a trans-man or a trans-woman does not have the right to adoption, where the criminality of section 377 is still under the Supreme Court’s review, here are two mothers who refused to conform to society’s whims and chose happiness for themselves and their loved ones. While we celebrate motherhood this Mother’s Day on May 14, let’s also celebrate equality and gay pride, like these mothers do.
Motherhood transcends genders for this transgender
“Motherhood is an emotion. It should not be labelled or attributed to a particular gender,” Gauri Sawant says. When she adopted a five-year-old girl in 2008, her only intention was to save her from getting sold into the infamous red light area of Sonagachi in Kolkata. “I never knew I will become a mother to her. Though now, she acts like I am the child,” the LGBTQ transgender activist from Mumbai chuckled, speaking to indianexpress.com.
The 37-year-old, who was born Ganesh Suresh Sawant to a policeman, realised she was different from the other boys at the age of 9. While being bullied for being effeminate pushed Sawant further into a cocoon and depression, she also did not have somebody to open up to. “I used to stay with my father, my naani and my sister. They came to know about my truth through the open ridicule the people around me subjected me to,” she says. And now, while Sawant gets messages of appreciation and gratitude from people across the world, her family continues to stay away from her.
Just because she couldn’t fit into the “normal” that the society around her had created? Well.
That said, Sawant is a proud mother. “Paida karne se koi maa nahi hota. Mai dil se uski maa hoon (Nobody becomes a mother by giving birth. I am her mother with all my heart.),“ she says amidst complaining how Gayatri, now 14 years old, would just plonk her school bag in a corner of the house and completely forget about books, and how she doesn’t eat veggies at all. And, oh she loves fish. So much that she can guess what fish the neighbours are making just by the smell of it, the doting mother shares. Her feigned tone of exasperation barely contains her love for Gayatri and her quirks.
While the Malad resident knows Gayatri is not hers yet, legally, she continues to put up a brave fight. In 2014, she became the first transgender to file a petition with the Supreme Court for adoption rights. Although her nine years of motherhood has been riddled with its share of problems, Sawant has feared nothing.
She plans to establish ‘Nani Ka Ghar’ — an organisation aiming to rescue the children of sex workers to be then taken care of by elderly transgender persons. She aims to buttress the cause of adoption hence, that she holds close to her heart. As for Gayatri, she said, she can become anything she wants. “As long as she is a good person, respects everyone and participates in LGBTQ pride walks.”
Being human matters, not sexuality, for this mother
In October 2016, an IIM-Kozhikode graduate based in Mumbai, decided to mark a ‘life-event’ on Facebook. ‘Came out of the closet’ it read, on Himanshu Singh’s Facebook wall. And rendering him with love and support was his mother Meena Singh.
“I am always worried if he is eating properly or not,” — her primary concern, however, is not much different from those of ours.
When Himanshu came out to his parents over breakfast one day, there were tears rolling down his eyes. But they both assured him. “It didn’t change anything. We love him and respect his decision. Nothing makes us happier than his happiness,” she told indianexpress.com. The 66-year-old’s positive attitude towards and acceptance of the community might set her apart from many others of her generation, who are yet to accept that homosexuality is normal, and not a disease or ‘influence of western culture’. Meena knows better. “For me, this was not at all new. My father told me about a homosexual couple in 1968. One of my friends in college, a closeted lesbian, used to write love letters to another friend,” she says. She understands that love is not something that the boundaries of gender can contain.
In case you are wondering if the question “What will the society say?” hasn’t crossed Meena’s mind, then yes, it has. But it has failed to bother her. Her question is “Why should Himanshu’s sexuality matter to anyone?” It should be his goodness that people around him should see instead, she said. And just like mothers with 20-something sons and daughters, Meena too obsesses and often pokes Himanshu about one thing — “If he likes somebody, I want him to tell me. I would love to meet him.”
And for mothers everywhere, who are seeing their children struggle with identities, she has this to say: “Please understand them. They have faced a lot of social stigma, bashing, bullies and must fight the world alone. Your support and love is the only thing they have.”
Gauri Sawant and Meena Singh have never deterred in the face of different challenges while shattering societal norms and stereotypes with grit. Though their devotion towards the well-being of their children is no different from our mothers, their lives are nothing less than beautiful bookmarks in the history book of equality.