Being a trans man means that I rarely feel understood
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I didn’t face discrimination or violence from my neighbourhood but my  trans brothers have faced violence at home, in school and their place of work. My parents never stopped me from expressing my masculinity; they never forced me to wear sarees, make-up and jewellery. The situation was not the same for a lot of my trans masculine friends. A friend of mine, when he was with me was free to express his gender expression by wearing masculine clothes and discussing his girlfriends. Unfortunately, the moment he would return home he was forced to wear ‘nighties’ and was not allowed to cut his hair short. A lot of my trans men friends were subject to verbal abuse at home and were not allowed to be themselves. I would often advise them to get economically stable and then come out to their parents. The emotional abuse from home often drove them towards suicidal thoughts as they were not allowed to express their gender freely.

Back then I didn’t have the resources to intervene and counsel their parents, but their predicament would bother me. I had a friend Seema, who was subject to violent physical abuse at home for wearing trousers and shirts and refusing to wear ‘salwars’. We were all very young around twelve or thirteen and were unable to help him. The boys of the neighbourhood would often subject us to verbal abuse and catcalling. I haven’t faced this from my family, but from my neighbourhood, workplace and from my partner.

After my father passed away, I got a job where my father used to previously work. The dress-code was a saree, which for me would have been an act of violence. The amount of emotional abuse led me to relent and wear a saree on the job. My mother has schizophrenia and the money from my salary was used to buy her medicines. The day I wore the saree, I was ridiculed by the staff. After two hours, I changed and went back home. Later my uncle supported me and spoke to seniors in the company and I told them that psychologically, I am a man. I was finally allowed to wear kurtas to work, but the verbal and emotional abuse didn’t stop. I was finally forced to quit work. They falsely accused me of stealing, tried to torture me in every way possible.

I studied in a girl’s school. I was visibly masculine, but fortunately I didn’t face hostility from my classmates. I did face dysphoria while wearing the school uniform which was a shirt and skirt. I had a teacher called Khuku who understood my state of mind and asked me to persevere in my studies. I would wear trousers underneath my skirt to deal with my dysphoria. My neighbours have seen me grow up and they are used to me being trans masculine, hence I haven’t faced discrimination from them. It has been difficult for me in public spaces like trains. Initially, when I would board the ladies compartment, I would feel very uncomfortable. I prefer traveling in ‘general’ compartments now. When I was younger and would travel with my mother in my the ladies compartment, people would question her about my gender, look at my body in a way that made me very uncomfortable. Now, that I am older and more aware of my own identity, I find it easier to navigate public spaces. I find it so difficult to navigate public toilets. It is difficult to go to men’s toilet and I feel a lot more uncomfortable in women’s toilets because of the way I am stared at.

I faced a lot of emotional and physical abuse from my partners. We have an intrinsic need to love and to be loved so we are vulnerable to these incidents. My first partner used me financially and emotionally. I would go to her house and she wouldn’t let me enter her house. I would wait outside for hours. Her entire family used me for money. They threw me out the moment they realised that I couldn’t support them financially anymore and verbally abused and shamed me for my identity. They would say that they would marry her to a ‘real’ man and told me I was neither a man or a woman and had no right to love their daughter. I tolerated her family’s abuse for a very long time. Her father was very vulgar in his interactions with me. Her uncle made me feel very uncomfortable with his glances towards me and would share his own sexual exploits with me which would make me cringe. These interactions indirectly invalidated my identity. My partner never protected me in these situations. Because I had my family to fall back on, I didn’t commit suicide like so many of my trans brothers. The world uses us because we are vulnerable and desperate for love. The woman who I had been with for twelve years forgot about me in an instant.

After my father who was a very close friend of mine, passed away I retreated into myself and my family to be able to heal. The wound from the twelve year relationship was still fresh. We are so deprived of love, that if someone says a few sweet words, we give them our entire universe. Even in this new relationship, I was financially exploited. Slowly I became close to her family. Soon after, her mother started calling me over when she wasn’t there.  She was sexually abusive towards me and I was deeply uncomfortable. I told my girlfriend about this and she told me that my mother cares about you and I tried to explain her that I felt abused by her mother. I stopped going to her house and pretty soon she got into a terrible fight with her mother. She hit her and threw her out of the house. She moved in with me and a few months later she started physically abusive towards me and my mother. She used to beat my 58 year old mother over small things. I tried to stop her to preserve my relationship .After this continued for two years she left for her home. My family helped me heal from this pain.

“As trans masculine folks we should support and stand by each other”

We as trans folks  need to stand beside each other and support each other. We should be able to be financially independent to be able to support ourselves and our families. We as trans folks should be able sensitise people everywhere including villages and make them realise that there are people like us. Right now, I feel that there is no one who thinks about trans men. The media can do nothing to help. I know that my family supports me but what happens to those who don’t have the support of our families. We as trans men should support each other and stand by each other. We as a community are divided which makes us a lot more susceptible to violence.

As Told to Suvana Sadhu
Illustration by Upasana Agarwal

In Conversation With Trans Activist, Anurag Maitreyee
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Anurag Maitreyee has been involved in activism for over ten years. I first met her at a Take Back the Night event, which was a response to the 2012 Delhi rape case. She routinely turns up to every activist space, be it protesting caste hegemony, against sexual harassment or various literary events. She believes in occupying predominantly cisgender spaces to make room for trans folk. Fiercely maternal towards her community, she also helps younger trans folks find their voice. Activism is not the only thing she is passionate about. She is also a poet and her work is gut-wrenchingly honest.

We sat down to talk about her life, her activism, her community and her poetry.

How was growing up for you? What are your fond memories from childhood?

All my fond memories from childhood are with my mother. One particular memory that stands out was when we were sitting by the beach in Puri while sun was setting and sky was a milieu of colour. My mother pointed to the sky said, “Imagine yourself to be as expansive as the sky”. My mother was very akin to nature. There was a ‘krishnachura’ and ‘radhachura’ tree next our house. After a stormy night the ‘radhachura’ tree died. My mother looked at the krishnachura tree and she could relate her loneliness. This collective pain of relating your inner struggles with the pain in nature forms a major part of my memories with my mother.

Did you have a support system growing up? How did they help you?

My mother was my support system. I have had to be my own support system to a very large extent. I studied in a boys school. When I would compare myself to other children, I would notice that I was different in the way I carried myself. I could relate myself more as a woman. So I started dressing and behaving in a way which felt comfortable to me. I did not have to vocabulary to understand myself back then.

How did you find community? Tell us some stories about how the community came together in pain and standing up against violence?

I live in North Kolkata. During my teenage years, I would go to Dum Dum station and met a lot of community members. I would wait the entire day to go spend a few hours with my friends. Those few hours with community taught me the meaning of family. I felt like a caged bird only to be released when I met my friends, my alternative family. Under the pale orange light at the station, running away from the cops, applying a tinted lip balm and face  powder, munching on delicious ‘phuchkas’ and spending hours sharing my pain with my friends; I finally found my freedom. I have experienced love outside the realms of romantic love, which I hold very dearly. We would have ‘addas’ on Bodhi’s roof and have ‘jhal muri’ and discuss the men we had crushes on.

How did you get into activism?

I did not consciously get into it.  Fighting to live my life in my own terms has been my activism. I have to fight everyday to be able to be who I am at home, in the neighbourhood, to be able to mingle with community, to be able to wear make-up and to walk the streets. These fragmented fights turn into a collective movement. This collective fight to be able to live,  is the crux of the trans-feminist movement.

You have been involved in activism for a long time. Would you like to talk about how you managed to get justice for yourself and your community after you faced harassment?

Five of us transwomen were traveling together in the Metro, during Durga Puja to go to Maddox Square. Four men were sitting opposite us and were constantly making vulgar suggestions for sexual favours. My friend Tina protested and I intervened and said that I would slap them if they continued to harass us. They scattered for a while and we thought they left. When I got down at Jatin Das Park, the men surrounded me and they physically assaulted me because I had turned them down. My friend Kristi who was quite strong helped me fight them off. Me, Kristi and Tina were there and my two remaining friends left saying that they had come out to enjoy and didn’t want to be involved. We go to the nearby kiosk and ask the cops to arrest the four of them. He asked us to leave and said that he would arrest them. We go to Bhawanipore station and then we realized that the cops had already released them. It turns out that we were under the jurisdiction of Tollygunge Police Station. When we reached the station, what I witnessed was a death of democracy. The OC told us, ‘These people are thieves and beggars and they claim to have human rights. How is it possible to harass or assault such people. Get out of here”. I stood up and conversed with him in English and his entire behaviour changed. He offered us tea and asked the other cops to send a car to the place of occurrence. After fighting that much we were finally able to lodge an FIR. From this experience, I realized how colonial our law enforcement system is. I come back home after a medical examination by the police and take a resolution to fight this injustice. I call other activists and we organize a ‘gherao’ of Tollygunge and Bhawanipore police station. The ACP met with us and promised to get justice for me and my community. The cops who had harassed us were demoted and fired after a lot of organizations filed complaints. Unfortunately the perpetrators are still absconding.

You have also allied with feminist groups like Das theke Das hajar. How do you think that this has helped the movement become stronger?

Cisgender feminists have excluded us from the larger feminist movement. A couple of years back a reputed cis-woman feminist said, “How will transwomen be involved in activism if they are busy dressing up and applying make- up”. For me applying make-up is also a form of activism. I believe in occupying predominantly cisgender spaces and carving a place for trans-folks. We are a lot more than just our LGBTQ identity, we contain multiplicities. The movements we want to be involved in should not be dictated by cis people.   I also believe that LGBTQ movements should not exist in isolation but work with other movements.I don’t believe in preaching to the converted. I go to very transphobic spaces and through dialogue, try to make them more sensitive towards trans issues. I feel like I have been able to create a certain change over the years by this continuous process of occupying spaces. I find myself outraged and fight for justice when a cis woman is raped, but don’t find a similar outrage when my people face harassment and assault.

For most of us queer folks, art and literature becomes a  coping mechanism to survive in a society which is not kind to us. You are a writer and poet. Tell us more about your writing process?

I am a writer, poet, elocutionist and anchor. I am a spontaneous writer and my works are soliloquies.  I explore the association of body and mind through my poetry. My work is also a celebration of my femininity by my own self.

You are also planning to write a series of novels. Could you give us a brief description ?

My series will have various anecdotes, real life experiences of trans and queer folks and also allies.

You have been a trans activist for many years. What are the significant changes you have noticed, if any?

To a certain extent I do believe there has been a change in the minds of people.

What suggestions would you like to give to younger trans folks?

I would like to suggest young trans women to not define their own self-worth by the approval of men. The insidious patriarchy celebrates romantic love to an extent that it becomes toxic. We should respect an individual’s choice of celebrating one’s life.

What are your hopes and dreams for yourself and the trans community at large?

I would like to create alternative family structure which is away from ideas of  blood families and romantic love. I would like to celebrate alternate forms of love. Why do we as queer people aspire for similar heteronoramtive familial structures? I want us to celebrate love and relationships which are unnamed, unidentified and unrecognized in this heteropatriarchal structures. I want my community to stop seeking external validation from men and being able to love themselves for who they are. I respect people who want to ger SRS out of their own free will but I don’t want anyone to feel compelled to get surgery to fit into somebody else’s idea of a woman.

Would you like to add something else?

When I was younger, I thought I was a woman trapped in a wrong body, now I think I am a woman trapped in a wrong society.

As told to Nandini Moitra
Illustration by Upasana Agarwal

Trans Community Condemns the Passing of the Trans Bill, 2018 in the Lok Sabha

We do not accept this bill in it's current form! It is regressive and harmful to our existence. The Lok Sabha has passed an a Bill that violates our human and fundamental rights and is in direct violation of the Supreme Court and Constitution. The State cannot take away my right to choose my gender, it is a deeply personal matter. This process is entirely undemocratic. #withdrawtransbill2018

আমরা লোকসভাতে পাশ হওয়া রুপান্তরকামীদের সুরক্ষার বিল 2018 কে কোনভাবেই মানছি না এই বিল প্রগতির পথে বাঁধা, রুপান্তরকামীদের অস্তিত্বকে অস্বীকার 
করেছে এই বিল,এই বিল মানুষের মৌলিক অধিকারকে লঙ্ঘন করছে। এই বিল সুপ্রিম কোর্টকে ও সংবিধান
কেও লঙ্ঘন করছে আমরা এই বিল কে তুলে নেবার আর্জি জানাচ্ছি কারন আমাদের লিঙ্গ পরিচয়কে রাষ্ট্রের কখনোই নির্ধারণ করতে পারে না এটি একটি অগণতান্ত্রিক পদ্ধতি ।

Everyday Streets and My Home: Charu's Story of Activism

Charu speaks with conviction, society isn't accepting trans people and there is little hope for change if people do not change their attitudes drastically. In a society where rejection is an every day occurrence, Charu finds her place in her own home, with herself, loving herself and her community.

এই রাস্তা থেকে এই বাড়ি সব আমার , স্বাধীন দেশের একজন মানুষ হিসেবে আমার একটা ভোটের কিন্তু নির্ভর করছে অনেক কিছু । আমাদের স্বাধীনতা তখনই বদলাবে যখন সমাজটা বদলাবে ,আসুন শুনি চারুকথা চারুর মুখ থেকে…

I live for the taali and I'll die for the taali. It is everything.

Gungun is a trans activist and performer who grew up in Kolkata. Today she lives in a town in Bihar, and visits her mother back home for two months a year. Here she speaks about her life as an activist, performer, daughter, as community and citizen

গুনগুন কলকাতায় বেড়ে ওঠা একজন রুপান্তরকামী /হিজরে ব্যক্তি , এখন গুনগুন বিহারে থাকে ,দু মাসের জন্য কলকাতায় আসে মায়ের সাথে দেখা করতে । বিহারে হিজরে গোষ্ঠীর পরিবারের গুনগুনও একজন সদস্য একজন রুপান্তরকামী নারী , আসুন শুনি গুনগুনের কিছু কথা গুনগুনের মুখ থেকে |

Street Protest Against the Trans Bill 2016

In February this year our community took to the streets to protest the Trans Bill 2016 in its unamended state. The community spoke about the problems of dangerous legislation such as this which is proposed by cis heterosexual individuals who do not understand the trans community or its needs. In the name of rights and protection, this bill sought to ostracise us further, give power to the institutions that harm us and force us to go through an invasive, unfair screening process. 

"This Bill Is Against My Existence"

We as a trans led collective come together to raise our voices against the Transgender Bill 2016, which is up for discussion in the winter session of the Parliament. This bill, if passed in its current state will set trans rights back by decades. Support our efforts and raise your voice against this. 

If passed this bill will reinforce and give power the social structures that have always oppressed trans folks. 

If passed this bill will reinforce and give power the social structures that have always oppressed trans folks. 

With no mention of our chosen families, the Bill gives unwarranted power to biological families that abuse us; additionally criminalizing our hijra family systems. 

With no mention of our chosen families, the Bill gives unwarranted power to biological families that abuse us; additionally criminalizing our hijra family systems. 

Going against the Supreme Court's NALSA judgement of 2014, this bill takes away the right to self determination. 

Going against the Supreme Court's NALSA judgement of 2014, this bill takes away the right to self determination. 

"If introduced, this Bill will increase violence and discrimination towards us."

"If introduced, this Bill will increase violence and discrimination towards us."


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