Peace Activist and Research Scholar Devika Mittal narrates her experience of working with transgenders during fieldwork:
“Tu zeher kha ke mar ja, tujhe jeene ka koi haq nai hai”
(Have poison, you have no right to live.)
These lines were said to someone who is a transgender female. I was stunned when i heard this line today during my fieldwork. I was attending a meeting of people with diverse sexualities. Today, they discussed about their experiences, the usual behavior that is meted out to them by their own family, at workplace or when they are walking down the streets.
This statement and the other things that I heard today disturbed me a lot. They keep coming back to me and even as I write to me, the discussion is being re-played/re-telecasted in my mind and I remember the tone and the expressions as they shared the horrific truth of this society.
The person who had faced this suggestion to take her own life was very disturbed and kept demanding for a solution. She narrated how once someone at her workplace got to know that she is not a male, the teasing, the verbal abuse and harassment had started. I noticed the way she was trying to give out the details, she felt uncomfortable, with a sense of humiliation and disgust and it reminded me of my own self when I would try to confide details of any eve-teasing or harassment that i would face.
There was another person who talked about the problems that she was facing in her family. It would involve verbal abuse, words or expressions of disgust and physical harassment. There was again a sense of humiliation that she was undergoing, yet I also felt that it was something that was very usual for her.
This discussion was mainly centered around the problems of these two people and other people were trying to give suggestions based on their own experiences. Some of them asked them to compromise with their identity and behave like “men”. To which one person lashed back, “Agar mujhe female ki tarah dress karna hai, toh kisi ko kya problem hai?” (If I want to dress up as a female, what is anyone’s problem?) As she said it, I was reminded of the innumerable times that I say it myself, asserting my right to do what I want, break free of societal norms. There was the same pride in her voice that I have, as I say it.
They all discussed their own stories, day-to-day experiences and I was surprised that as they narrated, they would never glance at me. They were not conscious at all. And it was because it was nothing “extra-ordinary” for them.
Even as they would sometimes mock at each other, I did not try to join them in their laughs as I was too conscious that maybe my laugh would be taken in a negative sense. I was too conscious and perhaps also guilty.
I watched them as they sang and danced and I saw that as they danced, they did not care about anyone. They did not look at anyone but just danced. The movements were free, there were no boundaries. And I felt the power of dance. How symbolic it can be….
Taken from the writer’s blog: https://devikamittal.wordpress.com/
Devika Mittal is pursuing Ph.D in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics. She is a core member of Mission Bhartiyam and convener (India) of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative. She tweets at @devikasmittal