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JWB’s First Transgender Story: Pushpa’s Soul In Pradeep’s Body

  • JWB Post
  •  June 26, 2015

 

On one hand, we Indians seek blessings from hijras, and on the other hand, we discriminate and disrespect them. My quest to learn about the transgender community took me to the third floor of an old commercial building in Jaipur. That was the office of my story’s protagonist, Pushpa, who is also the face of Jaipur’s first “LGBT Pride March”.IMG-20150302-WA0064

She is an activist and her organization, ‘Nai Bhor’, works for the betterment of the LGBT community. She also works with RSACS (Rajasthan State Aids Control Society) under the project ‘Pehchan’ to create awareness about HIV and Aids.

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Chaya, Pushpa’s transgender maid, welcomed me in the office. I was asked to sit on the ground where a neat mat was spread. The walls of the small room were decorated with various posters for AIDS awareness and LGBT Community Rise. Chaya sat next to me to dry her pink nail paint. Though I was excited to meet Pushpa, I was equally nervous.  I did not want to use words that might hurt her community.

Then Pushpa entered. This 43-year-old, standing 5’2’’ tall, was dressed in an impeccable white salwar-kameez with maroon dupatta. With elegance, she raised her henna-ed hand over my head to bless.

Before I could ask her my first question, she overtook the conversation and asked about my work and interests. Fascinated by my childhood stories, Pushpa effervescently spoke about hers.

Childhood.

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Pushpa started talking about how beautiful her childhood was, with excitement filled in her eyes as if unraveling some mystery.

She described the delight of wearing her mother’s make-up and clothes when she was small. As she grew up, she realized that she was not like other boys.

She recalled an incident from her childhood when she was in class 8: “I was playing outside my house and the boy I had a crush on was standing right next to me. I told him that ‘I like you’. My eyes were in tears. No matter how hard I tried, I could not hide my feelings. He went to my parents and complained. I did not know how to react. But my family totally favored me and scolded the boy”.

Family.

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Pushpa expressed how much she loved seeing her mother and sisters dressing up in colorful clothes, jewellery and makeup.

She remarked, “I always felt that there was no one I could share my pain of being “the other one” or my joy about anything good in life. But I was wrong. I remember during my brother’s marriage, my sister gave me her saree and everybody asked me to dance.  I danced whole evening in that saree. Nobody called me names for wearing it. Nobody laughed at me. Everyone called me beautiful in that attire. I slept peacefully that night, perhaps the best sleep ever.”

Pushpa continued, “After my mother’s death, I became lonely. My siblings wanted me to settle abroad with them but I refused. Finally after completing my college, I decided to live exactly the way I feel from inside.”

Being Pushpa.

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Remembering her initial few days when she came out as a transgender, she said, “I was 25 that time. As a ritual I was supposed to choose my ‘guru’.DSC_0308

I decided to choose the famous Lakshmi as she inspires me to be proud in who I really am. I started volunteering for various projects for the rise of ‘kinnar’ community.”

Life after transition.

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Pushpa said, “The fear of being lonely, discriminated and unloved crops inside in the beginning. Many relationships end during and after transition. Dating can be painful and it is nearly impossible to find understanding partners. Very few people are comfortable being in a relationship with a transgender person. Currently I don’t have any partner.”

She added, “Believe it or not, I am grateful to my parents for making me this strong. I want to inculcate this dignity & courage in all my children of the community.”

Difference between Gay, Lesbians and Kinnar samaj (Trans community).

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Pushpa explained, “We have sexual orientation, just like anyone else, which has nothing to do with our gender at birth. On the basis of romantic interest, there are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and asexuals.  And then we have ‘social roles and behaviors’, that is how we present ourselves to others in the way we dress, talk and act.

About surgery to change the gender. 

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She said, “I am not operated! I still have male genitals. Most transgender people do not undergo surgery in India, for both health and financial reasons. Moreover, doctors hardly treat us with compassion. Even the educated medical practitioners treat our community poorly.”

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“Some do nothing. Some change their names and clothing, and take hormone injections. We take Estrogen to have fuller breasts, softer skin and the loss of body hair. Although, it does not affect our masculine voices. Testosterone is masculine hormones. It creates facial and body hair, muscle mass and loss of hair on head to give us a more manly look.”

Social acceptance.

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“They make documentaries about us and say all these interesting things, take our blessings but when we walk out to the street, we get catcalled. Lewd comments are passed on us and whistles are blown,” remarked Pushpa.

That moment Pushpa read out her identity card to me, which has ‘transgender’ marked clearly on it. She has two names written on the card – Pradeep (her original name) and Pushpa.

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She explained, “When I went to take my third gender identity card, they only put my one name. People often ask me to forget my past but I do not want to forget my roots. I had a big argument in the government office that day, and today I have my ID card with both my identities.”

“I feel all of us here must have our identity card. This will definitely say that we are not a non-person. Being transgender is legal”, said Pushpa Maa, as she is fondly called.

Expectations from the society, police and government.

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Pushpa made her point loud and clear saying, “I want my community to feel safe while walking down the street. I want men to realize that it is not OK or acceptable to pass lewd comments on us. I want my country offer me equal rights and protection as a citizen!”

Pushpa said that the fundamental protection of the state must be extended to her community. Molestation and rape of community members go unreported mainly because of the fear that a victim will face further ridicule in hands of police, medical staff and society.

Speaking about her authentic demands, she pointed out that while there are some positions available in the HIV/AIDS NGO sector for transgender people, mainstream employers are not enthusiastic to have them at workplace.

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Don’t you miss your family? –I asked. With compassion-filled eyes, she said, “This is my family. I live with my family. We all live together and refer to each other as mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and great-grandmothers.”

I corrected myself and asked, if she misses her biological family. Very calmly, she told, “Whenever I miss my birth siblings, I go and meet them. One of my sisters lives in Jaipur. I meet her on a regular basis. Her in-laws have also accepted me the way I am. Sometimes, I wear normal male clothes but never change my makeup or hair.”

Dreams

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All of a sudden, she stopped and looked outside the window. Then she said, Insaan aur jaanwar me kuch to farak hai. Jeeta to sirf janwar apne liye hai, mien to insaan hone ke naate dusro ke liye kuch karna chahti hun”. {There is a difference between animal and human being. It is the animal that lives for its own survival; being a human I want to devote my life to others.}tg-1-23

Pushpa’s story may be painful, but it is certainly one of the many unique stories, yet untold. Being friends with her is an accomplishment for me. Since I met her last week, I have been getting calls from her asking when the story will get published. She is excited, like any other woman we had interviewed for the blog.

The rights of transgenders are slowly being recognized, but the discrimination is still rife. We can at least be respectful towards them if we cannot do any other good.

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