Written by Nutan
Love has sexuality. It comes with conditions and it is impenetrable to homophobic minds — which includes your family too — mother, sister, brothers all gang up to end the pursuits of your life.
I was born in a male body. But nothing else made me feel like a male. My feelings were woman-like. I had started to feel this early on in my childhood — I always loved spending time with women and girls. I enjoyed their company and the comfort they offered to my being. I loved trying out women’s clothes, enjoyed playing with girls and doing all the things they did in their groups.
After clearing my matriculation, I got admitted to an Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Nanded. There, I used to spend time with men and women alike. Due to my male body and family pressures, I was trying to fit in by spending more time with men and dressing like them. I appreciated their company, but it was not my primary volition. From my behaviour the transgender community got the sense of me being one of them. I used to love their company because we instantly connected with each other’s feelings and it was an exalting experience.
But at my house, everyone was unhappy about it. When my family members got to know that I was hanging out with the transgender community, I faced unbearable wrath from them. My elder brothers tortured me mercilessly. At night, while asleep, my elder brothers would walk over me, stamping my face with their feet.
They were on the lookout to find reasons to beat me. Once my elder brother pushed me to the floor and beat me ruthlessly. I struggled to breathe. I thought I would die. All this happened in the presence of my mother and elder sisters. They partook in my oppression. No one came to my rescue. I would cry out to my mother, asking her whether I was her child. Why didn’t she have empathy for her child who was being beaten blue? She was reticent. No one loved me inside the concrete walls that I thought of as my home.
I couldn’t take it. It was extremely painful so I decided to leave home when I turned 21. I chose my guru. The guru is our guardian and we are known by our guru. The guru taught me the world of transgenders — the lingo, lifestyle, how to clap, etc. and also the defined territory where I could beg. In return, I had to give a share of my earnings. This is a common practice across the transgender community.
After this spell, I long wished to leave my hometown and so I got into a train that took me wherever, but my home. The journey took me to Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh. I made a living begging on trains. I decided to save some money and get a sex change. I knew of a place in Mumbai that helps do this surgery. So I went to the place with my friend, who is a transgender. I had no support network and no one from among my near and dear ones close to me at this very crucial moment of my life.
The surgeon charged a fixed amount for the surgery. I was short on cash. I pleaded with the doctor, but he wouldn’t go ahead with it. I phoned my friends in Nanded, to no avail. My friend who accompanied me begged on the streets in Mumbai to put me through the surgery. The surgery was done haphazardly. With many stitches still afresh, I was asked to vacate the hospital just a few hours after the surgery. With nowhere to go, I decided to return to Nanded. I hired an autorickshaw to the station. The surgeon commented that I might be the only patient leaving on an auto, the others who got discharged would opt for a comfortable car or taxi. As I stepped out of the hospital, the pain was nerve-wracking. The auto ride was bumpy and the stitches came out in the middle of the street. The auto-wallah wouldn’t budge, and my entire lower part was soaked in blood.
I had neither money nor energy to buy the train ticket. I requested the ticket collector that I have just gone through a surgery so I need a place to sit. He was in no mood to listen. I showed him the urinal bag which was put after my operation, but he still did not give me a seat. Helpless, I squatted near the toilet. Due to the uncomfortable seating, the bleeding continued. It was in such a condition that I arrived in Nanded, after nearly 12 hours and a sleepless night.
In the transgender community, there is a ritual after a successful surgery. On the fifth and sixth day, they serve you a hodgepodge of vegetables. On the eleventh and twenty-first days, they apply a turmeric paste to your body and give you a bath. I had to stay indoors for 40 days. On the forty-first day, I stepped out for the first time as a transgender woman. I felt relieved. I was a newborn.
For employment, I have certificates from ITI, 3D Max, and AutoCAD, yet nobody is willing to give me an opportunity to demonstrate my skills. If I start my business, no one will buy things from me, this has been my experience. Thus, the only option I am left with is to beg on trains or at marketplaces.
After the surgery, now that I was openly a transwoman, nobody agreed to rent their place to me. People were afraid that if I lived amidst them, their children would be come under bad influence. When I finally managed to get a place on rent, my house owner had to face abuses from neighbours for renting me the room. After some days, the same people submitted an application to the area councillor, asking him to get me to vacate, saying that their prestige was at stake.
There was an empty plot close by and a friend and I thought we would purchase it, but the plot owner refused to sell it to us, only because we are transgender.
During my difficult times and physical painful transition, a grandmother, unrelated to me, took care of me. She fed me and ensured my safety, she loved me for who I was.
I have faced severe blows from society and family. Yet, I yearn for my family who has abandoned me. Of all the things that have happened to me, the one thing I feel bad about is that I am away from my family. I always miss them. My mother, sisters, and sister-in-law are in touch with me on phone. They enquire about me but seldom invite me home. I feel that my birth is a tragic accident. Humiliation rules. Perhaps, love is dormant for people like us. We have to love ourselves. We are twice-untouchables.
Nutan is a Dalit transwoman from Nanded who works for the welfare of younger transpeople in the community.
The piece is edited by Nitin Yengde, an MA in Sociology; and translated from Marathi by Prashant Ingole, a doctoral candidate at IIT, Gandhinagar, and Suraj Yengde, author of bestseller Caste Matters, and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Kennedy School.
Suraj Yengde curates the fortnightly Dalitality column. He is available on Twitter @surajyengde