EXPERIENCING A CITY through the perspective of two different genders could be a psychedelic trip. Especially if the genders in question inhabit one body. That doesn’t make sense, does it? In my world, it does. In my world, too many bizarre things work.
I am a woman — a transgender woman who loves to venture out at odd hours at nights with a cigarette hanging off my lips and hands carelessly flitting my friend’s hair as we look for a chai stall. I have learnt that I love to walk flamboyantly, bob my head to some music only I can hear as I get my groove on (yes, only mine). My friend cautions, “Baby, you are a woman. Don’t attract attention. It could be unsafe.” Yes, she would then pat my head gently and we would resume our banter, albeit in hushed tones. I would be upset but I understand what she meant. One glance at the crowd around the chai stall and you could see all the men indulging in what I could only call “ambiguous leering ”.
The eyes would roll from my female friend and then rest on me. The gaze first seems to say, “Oh, what a lovely girl” and then slowly the realisation would set in. Shrieks erupt. “Oh, what a freak! Is that a boy or a girl?” or “I want to take her in a corner and rip her off.” It’s scary but I knew it was inevitable. The same places where I could roam around freely when I was more evidently (read physically) male have now turned into landmines of danger after the transition kicked in. I am careful while entering a club, careful while haggling with auto drivers, careful when walking back home because I know there are prying eyes all around, geared to shred me into minuscule units of their fossilised ‘realities’. But only because before, my body didn’t carry a passport of a bra strap and eyeliners and clearly, being a woman is all about this in their little heads. Men feel I am all out there to just be attacked. How could someone like me walk around confidently in a spaghetti strap? Don’t I have any shame? Who gave me the right to be so loud on the streets? The precision with which society drills ‘shame’ into a woman’s behaviour continues to amaze/disgust/confound me.
I know ‘respectful’ women are supposed to cover themselves and walk with their heads bent low. But I know I will still be considered shameless throughout my life, especially because of who I am. Trans-women are often told what is right and what is wrong, what are the signs of a good woman and what are not. But I don’t need your certificates. Thank you!
I know the streets belong to me as much as to any other woman. The more my body changes, the more pronounced are the unspoken fears. I sometimes wish there was a law I could fall back on. If today anything horrible happens to me or any other ‘queer’ women, I know my gender and body inspection would take more time in the police station than the actual crime. I ask myself: if ever I am in danger, can I really contact a policeman? What if I don’t appear to be female enough? What will he do? And what really would they do with the perpetrator? Will they think I asked for it, like they choose to justify many rapes? Me and many other trans-individuals are just shadows in their world.
But I stand up now. One loud, angry stare at that rubbing man in the aisle seat in the bus and he is gone. I push back the bastards who shove themselves against me and if this pushing is useless, a wink would be better. I will go on, like I always have. Probably I will grow more brazen (or so I hope). I just hope when I do, the streets have some tender smiles and a wide open city. With my hair flying free.
Afreen Chaudhary is 21. She is a poet and writer based in Bengaluru