I am transgendered, particularly a trans woman and sometimes referred to as a MTF (a male to female transgender). In other words, I was born male bodied and marked with the dreaded “M” in my birth certificate but identify as a woman. I am not intersexed, as in I was not born with ambiguous genitals, though anyone who is Gender non conforming would fall under the unbrella of being transgendered. The term Transgender emcompasses crossdressers, drag queens, drag kings, transsexuals, gender queers, hijras in India, Katoey in thailand, Two Spirited among Native Indians, fa’affine among Polynesians … basically anyone who is questioning their Gender. There is a lot of over simplification of what it is about being trans or misconceptions due to the extremely cheap portrayal by Indian directors.
People have asked me how I knew I was a “woman” and how I figured that out:
Let me be honest,
– Till date I have not exactly figured what it means to be a “man” or a “woman”, neither has anyone whom I have asked? The most common replies have been, it is about nurturing, being emotional, being sensitive, being protective of one’s family, being the breadwinner, being a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, blah blah blah all of which are rather a trait or a societal norm or a mere title.
– It obviously cannot all be about the physical parts or your sexual orientation for that matter.
My personal belief is it cannot be a strict this or that and it has to be a combination of physical, emotional, mental, societal, cultural and several other factors. That said, fundamentally, I have always been uncomfortable with my physical body. Everytime I see myself in the mirror there has always been a disconnect with what I feel and how I looked. So the physical outlook is very important for syncing my body and mind for my own good. Not to forget, the society takes its cue from one’s appearance and it is important to tell others what I feel about myself which leads to so many cultural and societal factors.
I knew I was different from the boys early on, may be when I was 7-8 years old. I was never a macho individual, I never liked playing with cars and trucks like my friends did. Growing up with older sisters, we have always had their friends over at home and they use to mess with me all the time. Inspite of the friendly harassment, I used to love hanging out with them. I did role play as a kid a few times and I was gung ho about playing the girls part. All this sounds so cliche’ and so similar to so many other trans stories out there but I cannot hide the truth.
I was in my 3rd grade then and I vividly remember sneaking around to try an outfit at home. The very touch of the fabric thrilled me. I did not get caught but it did spark a sense of unrest in me. I decided not to talk to anyone – my friends, parents , sibling, teachers,… for fear of being ridiculed and ostracized. In my pre-teen years I dreamed of going to bed as a boy and waking up as a girl. I had started reading mythical stories by then and I believed praying hard would earn me a boon that I can avail to transform myself. I wished there was a magic pill that when put to sleep would take me to an alternate world where I could be myself. Thinking back it sounds so silly and naive. Over the years, I also adapted to not display any overt mannerisms that would out me. There was always this growing sense of restlessness and to distract myself I delved deep into my books or did total TP hanging out with friends. I totally felt suffocated in not being able to express myself but life moved on.
Did you know that by the time a child is 2-3 years old, the kid is aware of the gender portrayal in the society? My 3 year old niece once told me that boys cannot wear purple or pink. Such is the effect of gender binariness in children. Imagine what society could do to you in a couple decades!
Gender is such a fluid concept that I decline to put myself into the binary. It is so subjective and variable to change, every human stands on different levels in the gender spectrum. Our society has always been very ridiculing of men displaying any female trait which is considered weakness. This is just a sad outcome of the society’s deep ingrained sexist views where we are considered weak and are taught to be submissive from an early age. Fearing I might be ridiculed and having seen the plight of the trans community (hijra) at the hands of prejudiced individuals which is pretty much everyone in India then, I started perfecting the art “of being and acting male”.
I have heard stories where families tell their kids stuff like- “Don’t sit like a girl”, “Only girls cry”, “Only boys play tough”, … My parents never did any of this to me explicitly but my dad has made some veiled references every now and then on the duties of a son, even till date. This is the part I have always hated and it has been very hurtful. I have always always disagreed and resisted segregating on gender lines. There was never a support group I could rest my shoulders on and cry out loud. I went into depression every now and then, and my moodiness became a part of my life. I completed my school as a total geek burying myself into books but I think the confusion got the better of me and I would never call myself coming out in flying colors. I made it to a decent college.
To Be Continued…