HYDERABAD: At the first sight, she looks like any other woman her age. She has the warmth and a smile that makes anyone comfortable. She takes time to answer questions, only because of the language barrier. Addressing a room filled with students and well-wishers of the transgender community, Hijra Revathi says, “This book is my tool. It is an instrument to let more people understand that all we are asking for is acceptance.”
In the city to launch the Telugu version, ‘Nijam Cheptunna: Oka Hijra Atmakatha’, that was originally written in Tamil and later translated into four other languages, 47-year-old Revathi, describes the most gruesome and difficult times of her life as a hijra with utmost frankness in the book.
In broken Hindi, the only language that she speaks in, other than Tamil, she recalls, “When I was 17, I left home because I started to feel and behave like a woman. People in my home could not accept this. There was no respect for me and hence, I moved out, into a hijra community.”
Going through the same experiences as everyone else in the community, she too took to activities such as begging and sex work for a living, spent days and nights on random footpaths, taken a beatings from the police and goons before finally reaching Bangalore.
“I joined the not-for-profit organisation Sangama as an assistant officer and later became the director of the organisation,” she informs, a rarity because hijras are still a subject of ridicule, where most people assume that it is unnatural.
But Revathi has not just worked in regular space. “The organisation works for the benefit of all minority groups and I have worked for rights of women, Muslims, Christians dalits and also adivasis,” she shares, adding that she has also worked with Medha Patkar for Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Revathi’s book that is currently available in five languages was published as ‘The Truth about Me’ by Penguin in 2010. The main reason for her to pen the book in the first place was to tell people that transgender community is the only minority group that is deprived of the basic right to live. “We are seen as criminals. There is no law in place for the atrocities that happen against us,” she expresses adding when it comes to family there are property issues. “There is no rightful ownership for children, as there is no law for someone, who is neither male nor female. That becomes a legal hassle,” she vents out.
The story and the hard reality has created so much buzz, that it is also been recommended as an academic reading at American College in Madurai. “This book has initiated a lot of dialogue after its release. The fact that we are releasing it in Osmania University itself shows that people have started accepting us. You are sitting with us and listening to our story. That is a sign,” she expresses.
She hopes that the book becomes part of syllabi in 320 universities across the country that could work towards sensitising people about the community.
The book was launched by the Hyderbad Book Trust in association with Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s studies. Sunitha, who was fundamental in launching the book for city readers, shares that the book is making the right impact. “No one understands that this is a natural phenomenon. The society is divided into two - male and female and it stops there. All that the transgender community is asking for is to let them live. This book is making it an impact and it is a proud moment for us,” she voices out.