Femininity and beyond

Assigned male at birth, 18-year-old drama artiste and UPSC aspirant Aijitha from Coimbatore, underwent  a sex reassignment surgery while in Class 11
18-year-old drama artiste and UPSC aspirant Aijitha from Coimbatore. PIC: S Senbagapandiyan
18-year-old drama artiste and UPSC aspirant Aijitha from Coimbatore. PIC: S Senbagapandiyan

COIMBATORE: Flickering images of the past, hoary music and a tinge of melancholy had enveloped the night sky. While Gemini Ganesan and Savitri were inviting the moon to hear their woes on the rundown TV near the window, a pair of eyes in Udumalpet of Tiruppur was blinking in accordance with Savitri’s, like a mirror image. For a Class 11 student Aijitha, who was assigned male at birth, the moon’s reflection was a gateway to liberation.

“I started to feel like a woman from my childhood naturally. Watching old Tamil movies helped me grow. I was fascinated by actors such as Savitri and Saroja Devi, who could speak volumes with their eyes, facial expressions, and dialogue delivery. I began wearing dresses made for women, along with doing self-makeup,” she said with a beaming smile.

Aijitha moved to Palakkad in Kerala along with her family and stayed there till Class 8. The battle that she had to face was not just internal. During her school days in Kerala, many people mocked her for the way she was. However, a guiding light was always a glance away.

“Knowing my talent in acting, a Tamil teacher, Manju, encouraged me to take part in the school-level drama competition. She suggested that I choose Silapathikaram as the theme. I prepared on my own, reading the concept and rehearsing in front of the mirror. After the competition, I finished as the runner-up in the state-level Kalolsavam conducted by the Kerala government,” she said.

Little did Ajitha know then that she was weaving a path of success as a drama artiste. She secured the gold medal and a cash prize of `25,000 for solo act in the national-level Kala Utsav, organised by the Ministry of Education, on January 5, 2023, in Odisha’s capital city of Bhubaneswar.

Making the world her entire stage for 7.5 minutes, Aijitha donned the role of Kannagi, who forms the crux of Maduraikkandam in Silapathikaram, who burnt the city with tears, femininity and bravery. She also won accolades at the Tamil Nadu Kalai Thiruvizha (art festival) conducted by the school education department recently and was appreciated by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin.

“For the national festival, I analysed the characters of Kannagi, Kopperundevi, Pandiya, among others from the epic. Besides, I practised Bharatanatyam through YouTube videos of transwoman Narthaki Nataraj. Some officers refused to allow me to participate in the female category. So I agreed to participate in the male category,” said Aijitha.

Owing to the pandemic, the family shifted to Coimbatore to make ends meet and Aijitha joined the corporation school in North Coimbatore. In Class 11, she underwent the surgery to become a woman and started wearing the uniform which was reserved for girls. “This was my first victory,” her words reeks of joy.

“When I reached adolescent stage, I started to question my identity and used to shed lonely tears. When I contacted writer Thanuja Singam, who is now my mother in our transgender Jamath system, she made me realise the importance of education for the community. This breathed a new life into me,” said Aijitha.

She faced stiff resistance from her mother, who could not understand Aijitha’s sudden change in behaviour. In 2020, she took her mother to a bookshop and picked up Vellai Mozhi, written by transwoman Revathi amma. “My mother asked the reason for selecting this book. I was adamant and did not explain anything. She realised the reason on her own and now my family is taking good care of me,” said the 18-year-old, who is currently preparing for the UPSC examination to become an IPS officer.

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