There are around 7 billion people living in this world, but the number of stories in it is far greater than that. Stories of failures and successes, of hatred and love, of joy and sorrow. There are some stories that invoke fear whereas some teach us courage; some stories are inspiring, motivating and move us to action, whereas some other ones make us ponder and question ourselves - they present the world to us from a different perspective, perhaps to which we were oblivious earlier. But a few of these stories stay with us throughout our lives, they guide us through and help us, they provide us support during the tough phases of our life and encourage us to move on. My story is also among these billions of stories waiting to be told and heard, but I am speaking on behalf of those who are waiting to be understood, those who long to be treated and accepted for who they are, and especially for those who are struggling with themselves for their identity for no fault of theirs.
Hi! I'm Anamika. I am a 4th year undergraduate student at IIT Kharagpur and I am a Transgender girl. If you are not aware of the term 'transgender', it denotes a person who is trapped in a body opposite to that of their mental gender; that makes me a girl trapped in a boy's body. Though I had feminine feelings throughout my life, I wasn't aware of the term 'transgender' before coming to IIT. I always considered myself a boy who liked dressing up as a girl in his private space, an act which used to take all the burdens, tensions and worries away in a flash; and for that brief period I could be comfortable in my own skin. It felt so natural, correct and peaceful for those precious moments; I could be 'me'. But being raised in a heteronormative patriarchal society, this became my deepest, darkest and well-guarded secret which I couldn't share with anyone and held it inside for almost 15 years of my life.
Throughout these 15 years, which make almost three-quarters of my life, I considered myself to be the 'wrong-one' and started to believe that I suffered from some kind of mental illness. In my eyes, I became a broken toy that nobody would ever want or love. I tried hard to compensate for this fact by trying my best to become the 'ideal boy' that every parent would want, so that my parents won't feel 'ashamed' of their kid if (whenever) they got to know my secret.
This battle with myself started to take its toll and I started to abuse myself both verbally and physically at the age of 8; this had repercussions on the outside as well. I became an easily irritable, short tempered guy who avoided social interactions as much as possible. Since I was in denial, I shrugged it under the veil of my attitude.
Though I hated myself for being me, in spite of that everything was going 'fine' - concealed and under control until class VIII. It was in class VIII that we had a chapter on Reproduction, in which we studied about reproductive roles of the male and female anatomy, and about our changing bodies due to the onset of 'puberty'. While every boy in my class felt attracted towards girls and boasted about the little facial hair growth he had, I developed a crush on my then best friend (who was a boy). I distinctly remember praying to God everyday trading every possession of mine to stop my male puberty, but again the heteronormative world struck me in the face and I couldn't tell anyone about it. This, increased the dysphoria even more. Being raised in an unaccepting society had its own consequences. By the time I completed class VIII, I had seen so many people getting bullied for silly reasons (a part of which I faced myself) that it scared me to bones and engraved the feeling of being wrong even more. So, influenced by this feeling when I moved to a different city in class IX, I resolved not to think more about it anymore and thought that maybe it was just a phase or a product of my own mind which would go away if I concentrated on something else. Thus, for the next 4 years I focused only on studying and excelled at academics at school, which eventually landed me at IIT-KGP. But all along I always felt that somewhere, something was missing and I wasn't as happy and confident as one should be after excelling in both board exams and getting into an IIT.
I didn't have many friends in school as well, and here in KGP I was all alone and away from home. Here curiosity took over me and I wanted to know more about myself. I realized that it wasn't just a phase in life and discovered that though there were very few people like me but at least I wasn't alone in the world, though I might be the only one with these feelings in Kgp - which was quite scary in itself.
Amidst these feelings, changing my body to match my gender for the better seemed a farfetched reality at least in the near future and having dealt with the emotional pain and self-abuse for a decade, I didn't see any further hope. So at the start of my 3rd semester, I cut off all my contacts and was about to attempt suicide, when a senior (who later became one of my closest friends) contacted me. I didn't tell him anything about myself then, yet he suggested that I consider visiting the Counselling Center as an option before taking any such step (I could always go back if it didn't help) and it seemed like a reasonable bargain to me. That small decision turned out to be a life changing event. I always had a very low self-esteem with almost negligible self-worth and self-love, so accepting myself as a transgender girl was a bitter experience. It took me almost 2 years of therapy to accept myself and become comfortable to open-up to others.
Internet turned out to be a blessing, which I used as tool for empowerment. I saw various videos and documentaries about other trans individuals, read articles from medical journals and discovered that surprisingly I could relate to most of them. During my explorations, I found out that 'gender', contrary to the popular belief, is not a synonym for 'biological sex'. 'Sex' is determined by the set of genitals and the reproductive system one is born with, however 'gender' is what a person feels from the inside and how he/she wishes to express himself/herself. This revelation brought great relief to me, since for the first time I felt confident about myself. On further exploration I got to know that unlike sex, gender isn't a binary concept and one can fall anywhere between male and female on the gender spectrum or choose not to identify with any gender at all. This however confused me at first, but later one of my friends summarized it aptly as gender and sex being analogous to the spelling and pronunciation of a word. Though most of the time they go hand-in-hand sometimes they disagree to a varied extent; but even when they do disagree, do we disregard or outcast that word from the language? Transgender people (like me) or gender nonconforming people belong to such spelling-pronunciation anomalies. Hijras at traffic signals or trains may be the only visible face of transgenders, but transgender folks exist amongst you and me, just as ordinary as the numerous faceless people we walk across every day. The girl whom you call a 'Tomboy' or that guy with a slight feminine dressing sense or with a little feminine way of expressing himself, all of them fall somewhere between 100% male and 100 % female on the gender spectrum. But they too, are just ordinary people with ordinary dreams. In case of transgender folks, it is just that they have an additional dream to align their body with their gender, and just like any other dream of any ordinary person it does not give anyone the right to outcast them from the society.
As I started coming-out to people, I encountered confusions from them regarding my sexuality and some of them even considered me a homosexual man who dressed as a woman to have relationship with men. I would like to make it clear that sexuality, just like gender and sex, is an independent phenomenon and doesn't have to comply with anyone's sex or gender identity. Though I consider myself a heterosexual female, I would like to state that sexuality is not just limited to being hetero- and homosexual. One can even identify as a bisexual, pansexual, asexual, etc. Moreover, 'sex', 'gender' and 'sexuality' are just another part of someone's identity like their name and DOB, and they do not define what kind of a person they are. Being homosexual or bisexual doesn't make anyone a criminal, and as a matter of fact it is a misconception that the Article 377 of IPC specifically criminalizes homosexuality alone. It states that any act of unnatural sexual intercourse (including oral and anal) is a criminal offence and everyone falls under its purview: people of all sex, gender and sexualities.
While all this was happening around, I started to notice that as I was getting more comfortable with myself, I was becoming a better individual. I became more humble, polite and relaxed, even my SGPA improved. Then in the last semester, the TV show Satyamev Jayate telecasted the episode on 'Accepting Alternative Sexualities', where I realised that being transgender and 'normal' were simultaneously possible in India. That was the day my life changed forever, and so did I. All the fears, confusions, lack of confidence and self-abuse which were left in me, went away in a snap. Unlike earlier, I no longer got irritated or angry even under critical situations and I could look into the mirror without feeling disgusted of myself. For the first time I could see my life clearly beyond the mist of confusion and fear that was always present. It showed me a ray of hope, that yes, changing my body for the better was achievable and it was possible within India too. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of the things. I was eager to plan out my future and confident at heart that I would surely achieve my dream of becoming the woman that I truly was, no matter what it takes.
During this period, which continues till date, I came out to some of my friends and all of them took it positively. I even told that senior, who saved me from committing suicide, all about myself and our friendship strengthened even more after that. The fear I had about losing these prized possessions of mine (my friends) vanished all of a sudden. The fear of public speaking went away and unlike earlier I now don't fear or hesitate to voice my opinions in a group, and, on the contrary I want to interact with as many people as I can. I have started to appreciate life in every form, and I have in general, become happier than I was ever before.
'Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free'.
Though there is still a long road to be covered, which is indeed full of struggles, now I am confident that no one can stop me from achieving my dream. I will be appearing for placements next semester and even though my journey till now has not been a smooth one, at this stage I believe I am nowhere lesser than my peers, and I stand an equal chance in getting a job, and later succeeding in life.
To those who identify as either of LGBTQ, I just want to say that there is nothing wrong with you or whatever you feel. The loneliness, confusion and unhappiness that you may be experiencing can often be quite overwhelming, and it is vital you find somebody to talk to, someone in whom you can confide your feelings. Your life might have been tough and excruciating, but remember that there's light always at the end of a tunnel, you just need to go through the tunnel till the very end. Just keep moving even if you cannot see either of the ends, find support in form of you friends and cherish the experience of the journey, it will definitely make you a better human being.