TW: Transphobia and abuse
“I used to pray to God [to] either make me whole man or woman, but [not to] keep me confused with my gender. I can’t live in dilemma for my entire life. I would cry to God a lot.” Urooz Hussain, a trans woman from Bihar, would pray to God in desperation in her early teens.
Urooz, 28, belongs to a Shia family in Bihar’s Bhagalpur. Her family is, as she puts it, conservative and very religious. Urooz was assigned male at birth but from her childhood, she says she’s always harboured an inclination for the feminine. “I would wear ladies’ suits and sarees secretly and I would love it. You won’t believe that I used to wear sanitary pads thinking I needed them just like any other girls,” said Urooz.
From a very early age, Urooz had the feeling that she was different, but she did not know anything about gender, sexuality or the LGBTQ community. “I belong to a very small city where awareness about the LGBTQ community was zero [at] that time. Moreover, I don’t belong to a progressive family. However, whenever I would see trans people begging on trains or on roads, I would feel like I am from them. But I did not know, then, why I was feeling like this,” explained Urooz.
Because of her feminine behaviour, Urooz faced sexual abuse and harassment in her life from society, teachers, relatives, and her schoolmates. “I always [craved] men’s love, but not sex, as I did not get my father’s love from my childhood. I wanted a man in life who [could] love me like my father. But, men came into my life to abuse me sexually. One of my cousins also abused me sexually,” told Urooz. She further added, “My teachers and schoolmates would humiliate and tease me for my feminine behaviour. Until 10th grade, I would sit with girls in school thinking I was from them.” She had one crush in her junior college and whenever she would see him, she would feel good. But, the crisis around her gender, the lack of freedom to express her true identity, the sexual abuse and harassment took a toll on her at an early age.
As she belongs to a Shia family, she was taken to commemorate Muharram. “I would not do matam (chest beating) like Shia men, thinking I would grow my breasts. I would accompany my mother and commemorate Muharram like [the] women [did]. For this also I was teased and laughed at,” told Urooz. “I was close to my mother. She passed away in 2018.”
After 12th standard, she went to Delhi to prepare for the CAT but could not crack the examination. She then pursued a BBA. “By that time, I was sure that I may be born a man, but my feeling is like a woman and I am not a straight person at all. I am a trans woman,” said Urooz. “I read a lot about the LGBTQ community on the internet to seek as much information as possible. In Delhi, I became part of queer people [groups] and… gained a lot of surety about my queer self,” added Urooz. She further added, “that [this] is why I planned to stay alone and be financially independent so that I can make choices that are better for my life. So, I began working.”
She worked with Flipkart’s sales team from 2014 to 2015. She then joined Lalit Hotel in Delhi as a guest relationship executive for two years. That is where her life turned around. “While I was working there, I met a man who liked me a lot. He [loved] me a lot. I got the love I [desired] from my childhood (dad’s love) and also [the] love of a boyfriend,” told Urooz.
It was around this time that she decided to transition. “I wanted to complete myself and get rid of my dilemma,” said Urooz. “I was saving money for the same, but then the man helped me financially and emotionally in the transition. He also took me to Dubai and Saudi Arabia and I lived with him for some time,” said Urooz.
Urooz’s family members were against her transitioning. “Now, I don’t go home at all. I don’t want my father to feel like I disrespected him in society. Moreover, my brother feels like I have ruined his name amongst his friends. My sister, on the other hand, visits me often to see me. She also had a problem with my transitions initially, but she is okay with it now,” told Urooz.
After coming back to India, Urooz decided to do something that would change society’s perception of trans people. “I do not want people to think that trans people live only for sex work and begging. So, I started a restaurant called Street Temptation.” It was launched in 2019.
She invested about Rs.12 lakh and took up a place of about 750 sqft in Noida, Sector 119, for the restaurant. The restaurant allowed for 24 seating arrangements across two floors.
“Initially, I wasn’t able to get a place for the restaurant. People would not visit the restaurant because it was owned by a trans person. But slowly, [it] gained [traction] and then it began running well,” told Urooz.
She had nine people, including one trans person, working in the restaurant. “It was running so good that I would be able to pay everyone well and have some money left for me and to reinvest into the business.”
But then the pandemic hit and Urooz had to shut down the restaurant. “During the first lockdown, the restaurant was running but in 2021, it had to shut down completely. For a few months, I paid rent which was reduced by the landlord, but then I had no choice but to shut it temporarily as there was no source of income and I needed to pay the rent monthly,” said Urooz.
But her spirit did not stop there. While the entire nation was stuck at home to safeguard themselves from the deadly Coronavirus, Urooz put on a mask, applied covid-19 protocol, and began helping the trans community.
“Other people either had jobs working from home or have a support system to get through life. However, trans people were the most affected during the pandemic as they are the most neglected people in society. Moreover, they don’t have a support system,” said Urooz.
She also organised a vaccine center exclusively for the community people in Noida with the support of the district magistrate and claimed that all trans people in Noida were vaccinated. “I believe there are about 2000 trans people across Noida and all are vaccinated,” claimed Urooz. She also helped them with rations and money to support them through the pandemic.
This year, Urooz embarked on a journey to explore India with her dog and a few friends. “I am travelling to learn the different cultures and foods in India. Also, I want to experience how people treat us in different places.” She has travelled through Bangalore to Pondicherry, Rameswaram, Kanyakumari, Kerala, Hyderabad, Chennai, and many other places.
She went on to say that “the world has become more sensitive with us, especially young people who are very much aware of the LGBTQ community and don’t have any problem with us. However, I believe there is a long way to go and people need to be more aware.”
Since she is travelling with her dog, she finds it difficult to find friendly hotels. “Sometimes I have to stay in my car or stay in small places.”
She is planning to launch a YouTube channel where she talks about her experience travelling across India with a dog. She is also reopening her restaurant in September this year.