Being a trans man means that I rarely feel understood
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