Breaking Gender Barricades

Team Project Sexuality

“I kept all the fasts and offered namaaz. But then I started questioning whether God even loves me or not? Why do I have to suffer so much? I was angry and stopped practising my religion. ” says 25- year old Jamal who identifies himself as a trans man.  From schools to offices, social space to legal recognition the battle for transgender rights remains unheard of.

We live in a society where things have been allocated between two categories girl and boy. There is no option for female assigned at birth or trans men. Jamal points out the lack of policy for people who do not associate with the sex with which they are born. Either you’re a man or a woman. Born and brought up in Delhi the discomfort started when he was in school. He told his father he doesn’t t like wearing a girl’s uniform. His father, an Air Force Officer, came with the solution to buy him a boys uniform in the next school. Jamal felt comfortable in boys uniform and started hanging around with boys.  But then, somehow Jamal’s sex came in school authorities knowledge, and he started questioning everything that was happening in my life.
Looking in the mirror aggravated his identity crisis. People often commented, “kuch to gadbad chal rahi hai” (There is something going wrong). Talking about puberty with a shy smile he narrates how things went erratic in this phase. “It’s a depressing phase when you start getting periods, and your breasts gets enlarged. I was shaken and thought why did this happen to me.  As a biology student in intermediate, I came across the word transgender.The only interpretation for transgender was ‘hijra’.”
Out of all the strongest fear is of the society one belongs to. It gets even more challenging when you belong to a Muslim family. Jamal tells his parents are progressive and liberal in approach, but his relatives aren’t. “Your heart sinks when you think of how you will face the society. When I was 21, I mustered the courage to call on an LBT helpline number. I made a friend on facebook who is a trans man. Through him, I started making connections and felt comfortable. I got the courage to talk about it.”
For trans people using a public washroom is complicated. “At times when I go to washrooms, I have to think before which one to use,male or female. Then I realise it’s better to use girl’s washroom. At first, people get stunned. And then they realise oh it’s okay. She’s a girl. Sometimes even the washroom attendants ask me “Sir aap is waale me kyu aagaye?” (Sir why did you come in this one). I get so awkward that I want to exit the washroom as fast as I can . Secondly, when you work in a night job you get guards to drop you home.  Every time I had to explain that I am a girl.”
Jamal’s family doesn’t know about his gender identity. His mother who was unaware of his transition often asked him what’s happening, but he preferred to dodge her questions. Today he regrets not answering her doubts.After Jamal’s mother  had passed away, he inclined towards spirituality and started visiting Nizamuddin dargah and shrines of Ajmer. “I realised that the interpretation of Islam has been done wrong. Allah loves us the most.”  After ten years I am looking forward to and praying in this Ramadan.
 Jamal’s elder sister knows about his gender identity and supports her. My sister teases me by saying “Is she your girlfriend?”. With a blush, he tells how he considers himself lucky for having a supportive girlfriend by his side.
Presently, Jamal is on hormonal therapy which he stopped taking because of the pain and problem they caused. He could not wear pants or belts. He has resumed his therapy recently and is excited for his surgery scheduled in September.

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