‘Today, I’m a woman who battles the lust of my former gender daily’

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A series on true experiences

TRANSGENDER

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.

Illustration: Samia Singh

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

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