She was an outcast in school, raped by classmates, a teacher and disowned by family. Why? She was a transgender, born as a man but with the heart and soul of a woman. Sankari joined her community, began begging on the streets, engaged in sex work and finally after years of suffering, she is now an activist at the NGO, Nirangal.
For years, the LGBT community has been fighting for its rights, and while some may claim progress, the strides are tiny, given the effort it took to achieve it. Today, many trans women celebrate their feminine identity but how often do you see a trans man basking in freedom?
“I was born a boy but I changed into a girl. I overcame all the hurdles in my path. When I came out, my family and society let me go with thoughts that included ‘he is a man, he will manage. Let him go’. When a woman wants to change into a man, hell breaks loose. Psychiatrists, shock treatment…she is dishounoured to the extent of honour killing. Why can’t a woman choose her own path?” asks Sankari.
On the struggles of transgenders and trans men in particular, Sankari shares an allegory with us, “She likes sambar saadam but society wants her to eat biryani. She eats it but she doesn’t like it. If she continues to eat something she doesn’t like all her life, what’s the point in living? That’s the way the transgenders struggle.”
There is no embarrassment or not even a whiff of self-pity as she narrated her past. The only thing that she regrets is the way she had to break her family ties. “I can never go back to my parents. Even if my mother wants to talk to me, my dominating father will not let her. But I’m not unreachable. It is not difficult to ask any transgender about me. Word will definitely come to me!” she says. “Back in 1994, only my maami accepted me for who I was. I would tell her stories, share my feelings. I wish I could go see her now, show her my transformation but again, her husband and the other men won’t like it if I turn up.”
Women are still stuck in a patriarchal society. Sankari is among a handful of transgenders who had powered her way forward and broke the patriarchal shackles. What about the others? “I can’t truly celebrate Women’s Day until trans men are given the recognition and acceptance they deserve; until women are free,” she says and walks ahead to address a gathering on the struggles faced by women.