Neither Here, Nor There-Pathetic State of Transgenders
When we come across transgenders, we turn jittery. When they come near us, we feel uncomfortable and want to keep a safe distance.
By our actions, we treat them as untouchables. We are reluctant to even speak to them. We never pause to think that they too are humans like us and have the same feelings, needs, etc.
When we neglect or ill-treat them, they would naturally suffer emotionally. Their own parents who have given them birth, do not want to accept them.
For what fault of theirs do they have to suffer? Why do their own families want to see them away? Why do some men take advantage of their situation and harass them sexually? We talk about rape and murder; we protest, we hold peace rallies, we demand justice.
But when a transgender, Priyanka from Gadag, was killed in Mangaluru, there was no protest nor a proper investigation and this goes to show how transgenders are treated in the society. Why do some of us need transgenders to satisfy our desires? Why do the same men not fight for their rights? Are transgenders not human beings?
Team Mangalorean, after meeting some of the transgenders and listening to their grievances, has decided to do its bit to bring them to the mainstream. Violet Pereira (Proproetor and Editor-in-chief of Mangalorean.com) along with social activist Nanda Pais has decided to form an association for transgenders so that they can fight for their rights, whenever they are deprived of them.
Some of them, who wish to lead a normal life, spoke to Team Mangalorean, pouring out their emotions, difficulties and the problems that they face in the society where they feel that they are treated as less than human.
Known as Ajji (“Grandma”) by all juniors in her group, Rani is a 47-year-old transgender from Tumkur. Speaking about herself to our correspondent, she said that she was born in Tumkur and has 2 sisters and 2 brothers. She was discriminated with by her own parents and other family members. She had attended school only till 5th standard.
Thereafter, she stayed in the Shri Gurugunda Brahmeshwara Nanjavaduta Swami Math. “When I was 22 years old, I realized that I am a transgender. Neither my family or the society accept me. So I decided to get out of my district and come to Mangaluru. After arriving in this city, I used to sleep at the Kankanady railway station, but the police did not allow me to sleep there. For some time, I slept in petrol pumps and bus-stops. Later, I went to Panambur and spent my time there at the beach. Rowdies in the area would come and trouble me and other transgenders who were with me. Even now, they come and snatch our bags and sexually abuse us.”
She further said, “In the beginning, I had no food to eat and would sleep on an empty stomach. So without choice, I had to become a sex worker and was earning around Rs 200 per day. People use us only to fulfill their desires, but on the other hand, the society does not accept us. When I want to see my parents, I have to go only in the night and return after a couple of hours. My parents call me ‘Gowda’ (Man) and say that ‘Gowdru (men) do not wear saris’.
Pouring her woes further, she said, “Parents take care of specially-abled children but they do not take care of children like us. When we ask them why they do not want us to be in the family, they beat us and throw us out. For 25 years now, I have been staying in Mangaluru and doing sex work to lead my life.”
“Many other transgenders have joined me over the years. At present, 150 of us stay in Baikampady area. We earn our bread doing sex work or begging; no one is ready to give us any other work. Due to the discrimination that we face from our own parents as well as the society, we are forced to do such work for a living.”
A 34-year-old B Com graduate from Andhra Pradesh, Srinidhi narrated her story thus: “I have a brother and a sister who are married. My father died when I was 15 years old. When I realized that I am a transgender, I joined a group of them but my family filed a kidnapping case against the group leader. When the police took me and my group leader to custody, I told the police that I joined the group of my own free will.”
I stated that no one had kidnapped me and that my family had filed a false complaint against the group leader. The cops let us go after taking my statement. When I came back home to see my mother and family members, they did not allow me even to touch my niece. I felt sad by the attitude of my own siblings and mother. I fought with my family for not allowing me to touch the baby, and then I decided to go to Mumbai.”
Srinidhi further explained, “In Mumbai, when I used to beg, it was very difficult. I could earn very little money because of the language problem. Life was not as easy as I had thought to be. I stayed for 8 years in Borivali, begging and doing sex work. After spending 8 years in Mumbai, I came to Bellary where I met Rani. She brought me to Mangaluru eight years ago. I used to stay with Rani in Kulur but now we have shifted to Kana in Suratkal. I beg every day and collect around Rs 200.”
Sandhya is a 28-year-old from Bellary. She was born in a poor family and has 2 sisters and 2 brothers. “When I was in 10th standard, my father, who was addicted to alcohol, died of over-consumption of alcohol. After completing my PUC, I thought of supporting my family and started working in a cloth store. I used to earn Rs 900 per month.”
” At the same time, I was being sexually harassed by the other staff. I would cry by myself after getting back home as there was no one to listen to my plight. After some time, unable to face the abuse and harassment, I left the job. The staff there were forcing me to come back to work. At that time, I was feeling some changes in my body. When I realized that I was a transgender, I thought of going away. I came to Panambur and used to sleep on the footpaths. I found it very difficult to live so, I started to do sex work to earn money.”
Sandhya further said, “Men would come to me in order to fulfill their desires. Once a man came to me and enjoyed my company; later when I asked for my fees, he put a crab inside my dress and threatened to kill me. Often, some men threaten to kill us. They come armed with spiked brass knuckles and force us to sleep with them. If we refuse, they say, ‘You don’t know who I am. I will kill you if you don’t sleep with me free of cost’.”
“Once I challenged a man to kill me without satisfying him for free. I was being continuously harassed by men at Panambur beach for sex. Being disgusted with life, I went back to Bellary and joined my earlier cloth store. But this time, the harassment was even more. I then decided to undergo surgery and become a woman.”
“I came back to Mangaluru and joined Rani’s group. I continued doing sex work and used to earn some money. But during the night time, we were victims of pickpockets. When we went to the police station to file a complaint, the police would not cooperate. Instead, they would use foul language and file false cases against us. We have even been discriminated with by the police at Suratkal and Panambur. Sometimes when we beg, men ask our contact numbers so that they can come and meet us during the night for sex.”
“Once I went with my sibling (brother) to a hotel to have lunch, and the hotel staff enquired about him. Society does not allow us to be out with our own siblings and even tries to spoil their names. Fearing adverse reaction from the society, we have been neglected and rejected by our own family members. We have become victims in the society; even the cops treat us badly.”
“When a man wants to have sex, he just comes to us without any hesitation. So why does the same society, of which such men are also a part of, rejects us? If we are rejected and cursed, why does the society not reject the men who enjoy our company in the night?”
Sanjana, a 26-year-old from Karwar shared her story and said, “I studied till 10th standard. During my school days, I would sit with girls in the classroom but they would stay away from me. I was discriminated with by my own classmates, even though the teachers would shout at the other students and order them not to show any discrimination. After 10th standard, I joined a bar to work. There, I was being teased by many and would be called names like ‘Kinnar’, ‘Akkayya’, ‘Sanju’, ‘9’, ‘6’, ‘mama’, ‘point 5’, ‘Jogappa’, ‘Koti’ etc.”
“As the harassment worsened, I went to the Samara Samrakshana office and there, I met other transgenders. After some time, I left my job in Karwar and moved to Bengaluru. There I met Revati. She taught me how to dress and advised me to undergo surgery. I underwent surgery with my own money that I had earned from begging and became a woman. Since then, I have been doing sex work.”
Excerpts from the miserable experiences they shared with us:
How do you recognize other transgenders?
Sometimes when we clap hands, other transgenders understand that they can join our group. When they see us walking on the road clapping hands, other transgenders will also join our group. I came here first and adopted Ramya as my daughter. She, in turn, adopted many other transgenders.
Why do you clap hands when you see people?
Our main profession is begging or sex work. While begging, we clap our hands because only when we do so, people will realize that we are real transgenders and give us alms. Sometimes when we are in trouble, we clap hands and others will come to our rescue. In some occasions, clapping helps to identify each other so that we can flock together. Clapping hands is an established sign of real transgenders.
Why don’t you stop clapping hands and change your mindset?
To change our mindset, we need to be accepted by the society and be treated like human beings. People, especially our own parents as well as our family members, treat us like untouchables; they call us ‘Gowdru'(Men). They also say that Gowdru (Men) are not supposed to wear saris. They throw us out from the house out of fear of the society.
Whenever we feel like seeing our parents, we need to go in the night and return at the same time like thieves. If we go during the day to meet our parents, they fear that the society may throw them out too. When our own parents live in fear and reject us, where will we go, what will we do and how will we live? Let the society accept us as human beings and give us jobs so that we can lead normal lives.
What are the procedures to undergo surgery?
We need to fill a form along with an affidavit. A surgery costs us Rs one lakh and we have to beg and earn this amount. The Tamil Nadu government provides funds for surgery but the Karnataka government does not support us financially. Even though we are human beings, we are not treated like it.
How do you feel after surgery and how different is your life now?
Now things are changing, discrimination towards us has decreased to some extent. People of Mangaluru should also think that we are humans just like them. We are also females and we should get our rights. If we get jobs, we are ready to leave our present profession and work honestly. We want to be treated as human beings. We want to lead a decent normal life like others. The society should change the way it thinks about us. We are keen on taking up jobs to lead our lives but we do not get any. When we see the way people look at us, we see only rejection. It is not our fault if we were born like this. Our parents are supposed to be responsible for us but we have been deprived of their love and care.
What is your message and request to the society?
We are born as transgenders, which our families think is a curse. What is our fault in this? Our parents gave us birth and it is the duty of every parent to protect the children and treat them equally. At the same time, the society should help such parents to find a solution to take care of their children so that transgenders also get respect in the society.”
“We do not get any guidance from our parents nor from the society. We have been discriminated with by our parents, family members and the society. If the family members and the society change the way they think about us, transgenders will have a chance to lead better lives and this world will be a better place to live in.