This Blog is for YOU...

If you are/were Gender Dysphoric - so as to know some from me and share some with me, and reaffirm that none of us is alone... To acknowledge that we have a treasure of insurmountable Courage, Strength and Hope in us. I have a feeling that we were given slightly higher quantities of those special gifts :-) [If you have a question to ask me, you could write it as a Comment to one of the posts, and either I would reply to it as a Comment itself, or probably, respond in one of the future posts on this blog]

If you have never been Gender Dysphoric - so as to understand what it means to have a Gender Identity Disorder. Of course, it primarily depends on whether you want to or not. If you don't, please do make a quiet exit and try not to be a nuisance.

If you're confused - so as to realize that everybody goes through a stage of confusion - the period could be short, or sometimes, very long. What is important is to acknowledge that being unsure until you're sure is as normal and as alright as night before day.


If you're a human being - so as to find out for yourself whether you want to try to make the world a better place to live in, for every fellow human being, irrespective of their health, wealth, colour, race, gender, religion and any and every other line of division you can think of.


And finally, this blog is for ME - so as to be able to make some difference somewhere by sharing my experiences, and along the way, slowly grow out of those anxieties and insecurities that have inhabited my life for over 2 decades. It is time to escort them to the door now!

Come, Join me on this journey!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Dost Story

I have written a piece titled 'Facing the Mirror' for the latest issue of India's first magazine for sexual minorities. The magazine is called 'Bombay Dost', and the issue is now out. You can catch a glimpse of it at the link below, but the Preview has only one page of my article. To read the entire conversation, catch hold of a personal copy [The link also says where and how to get it].

Hope you enjoy reading it, and do give me your feedback! :)

Bombay Dost Preview

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

A year of plenty Firsts and many Lasts,
Painting the Futures and Wrapping the Pasts,
several Handshakes and some Goodbyes,
of Merry-making and Teary Eyes,
Flowing back to the Sea-side City,
Unravelling the secret - Life's so pretty!
Thank you 2009!
You were just fine! :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who am I?

i⋅den⋅ti⋅ty [ahy-den-ti-tee, i-den-]
- noun

1. the state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions.
2. the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another.

The world is so populated with labels and tags today that in the effort of simplifying the concept of identity, many times, we end up meddling with it, and confusing ourselves as well as others around us. To take my own example, from considering the label ‘gay’ for a long time to ‘pre-op transsexual’ further on to ‘post-op transsexual’ and then ‘transwoman’, all I have been doing over years is to try and fit myself in. Fitting oneself somewhere becomes an urgent need for survival when every waking moment of the day, one faces the hard truth – that one does not belong. Especially for persons with Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder (GID), groping with self-identity constitutes a considerable part of their laborious struggle, and this, for the simple reason that people who suffer from it, for all practical purposes, remain invisible because of the fear of societal pressures. Since it is harder to find others like you who you can identify with, it becomes that much tougher to discover the true self that you can identify with.

So, yesterday, at dinner, when my dear friend Jerry asked me – “Do you place yourself in the ‘T’ of the LGBT? Is that who you are?”, I fumbled before I could answer. This was exactly the question I had been posing to myself for a while now. I’ve been getting increasingly aware of the ineptitude of that label in defining me as a person. Unlike L, G and B, T does not stand for one’s sexual orientation. It stands for one’s Gender Identity.

trans⋅sex⋅u⋅al [trans-sek-shoo-uhl]
- noun

1. a person having a strong desire to assume the physical characteristics and gender role of the opposite sex.
2. a person who has undergone hormone treatment and surgery to attain the physical characteristics of the opposite sex.

The word ‘transsexual’, by definition, talks merely about a change of sex – whether pre or post. Now, sex change is a medical process I have been through to live a physically and mentally healthy life. But can that medical process be my identity? Or can the fact that I struggled with Gender Dysphoria for 25 years in the past, be my identity? A medical process or a medical condition, by virtue of itself, cannot be somebody’s identity. For instance, a life-saving cancer surgery doesn’t become an identity of the cancer patient. In fact, even ‘cancer patient’ is not an identity, because going by the definition of identity, it is the state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions. Extrapolating the same in the case of the medical condition GID, neither the disorder, nor the cure of it can be the identity of a person.

There, of course, are people who consciously choose ‘Transgender’ as their gender identity because they identify themselves with the third gender (e.g. some of the members of India’s hijra community). Laxmi Narayan Tripathi says in my film ‘To be… ME’ that she wants an identity separate from the binary-gender system. While I would completely stand for the demand and choice of that identity for her and others who choose it, the question I needed to answer for myself was whether or not I bracket myself in the community ‘transgender’ for the simple reason that I underwent a physical transformation to align my anatomy with my psycho-emotional gender, which was always, Woman?

wom⋅an [woom-uhn]
- noun

1. the female human being (distinguished from MAN).
2. the nature, characteristics, or feelings often attributed to women; womanliness.

If there has been one condition of being oneself or itself, and not another in my entire life, it is the absolute clarity in the private language of my mind that I am a woman. I might have stumbled on the choice of words to express it, but never have I once been in doubt about it inside. ‘Woman’ is the one ‘label’ I don’t need to even identify with, because it is not something external to me, it IS the essence of my entire being.

Jerry and I had a long discussion over this, through which, it came to become totally clear to me that I am not the ‘T’ in the LGBT spectrum, for the simple reason that that is not my sexual or gender identity. I suffered from Gender Dysphoria and I corrected it through SRS. The whole point of correcting it was that I do find myself fitting into the binary-gender setup and feel no personal need for a third space. (That, I reiterate, doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in someone else’s right to claim that space)

If that is so, why then do I need to repeatedly speak about my journey in the media or other platforms? Who am I standing for if I do not belong to the ‘transgender’ community. Who I am speaking for are the people who suffer from Gender Identity Disorder. I, as a woman, have a past of Gender Dysphoria, and being someone who went through a sex change surgery to correct that, I speak out merely to be able to be visible so that any others who might be dealing with the same conflict can know that there is Hope, that there is Happiness – out there, and within. Going with the same analogy of cancer patients, it is just like a person cured from cancer were to speak about their journey of fighting with it and coming out healthy and happy.

To bring my blog in harmony with this clarity of my mind’s expression, I have made changes to my Blogger profile and also, the description of this blog above.

Identity, in some cases, is a matter of choice. For instance, I am a writer – is my identity too, and that I have chosen. On the other hand, some identities, one is born with. A human being, for instance. Gender falls in the latter category of identity. For non-Gender Dysphoric people, it is a non-issue, an identity taken for granted, because it so naturally fits into the apparent harmony of the world around. But for someone who has had expressed clarity missing on that most basic of identities, it can be a long torturous route to reach the place where I have reached today. But that said, each of the milestones on this route is significant too because it brings you that much closer to embracing yourself – with a sense of pride and love, worthy of yourself and your journey.


Photograph Copyright: Bombay Dost
Photographer: Paramita Nath
Hair styling: Bhavesh Karia
Post: Abhilash Augustine
Special thanks to: SM, NB, Vikram Phukan, Jerry Johnson]

Monday, December 7, 2009

To be... ME

If you have read about me, you would know that the turning point in my life came when I made a documentary on transsexuality, along with my friends. It is a 20-min documentary titled 'To be... ME' that we made in 2006. 'To be... ME' gave me the courage to go ahead with transition.

This film has been available for download on the left hand side links of this blog, right from the beginning. But now, thanks to a friend, it is also available on youtube. Here are the 3 links:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Hopefully, the film will continue to make a difference...

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Other Side

As I hastened to look presentable for a meeting this morning, running up and down from the bathroom to the closet and back, I involuntarily stopped upon noticing one of the front-page headlines of The Times of India lying hitherto unnoticed on the couch. It said – “EC gives transsexuals, eunuchs a distinct ID”. All else forgotten, I sat down and read the whole piece. And found myself face to face with the perennial question that anybody with a history of gender change has to confront, time and again.

So, the Election Commission of India has decided to give transsexuals and eunuchs an option of choosing “Others” as their gender instead of having to fit themselves in the archaic two-gender scenario. A welcome move, says the paper.

My initial reaction, to be frank, was – What the hell! Others? OTHERS?? Men, Women and those OTHERS! It sounded demeaning and exclusive. Through the day, however, I have come to think that it is probably a politically correct term for anybody and everybody who doesn’t identify with the ‘M’ and the ‘F’. Instead of calling it ‘The Third Gender’ or ‘Transsexual’ or ‘Eunuch’, ‘Others’ could be looked at as more of an umbrella term for all these.

My real worry, though, was something else. I wondered whether this new term would also be applied to, or forced upon people who have been through Sex Reassignment to actually fit themselves in the archaic two-gender system; which essentially, on a most personal level, boiled down to – What social identity are they going to give me, or if so be it, thrust upon me? A ‘Female’ or an ‘Other’? Are they going to consider the fact that I was always ‘Gender Dysphoric’, and hence, my mental gender always ‘Female’, not to forget, the present physical gender too? Or are they merely going to look at the technical aspects of my having been born a male child and choosing to forego that gender? Are they going to realize that I have been a woman all my life? Or would they snigger and hand me a piece of paper declaring that I need to go and stand in the ‘other’ queue? Is my gender going to be decided by who I declare myself to be? Or are they going to keep that power in their own hands?

Just to make my stand clear here, I acknowledge and respect an individual’s right to choose to not belong to either of the two mainstream genders, and hence, demand for a legal identity as the third gender. It is only fair that a human being be given the freedom to assert their own identity, and that there be a system to acknowledge that. But going by the same logic, a transsexual person or a eunuch must also be free to choose ‘Female’ or ‘Male’ as their gender if that’s who they are, surgery or no surgery. ‘Others’ should certainly be an option, not a compulsion.

Giving the Indian system its due credit, I have had very little, if any, trouble in getting my official identification documents altered as per my new physical gender. Driving license and Passport are through already, while PAN card is in the process of application. On a personal level, I have never felt a need for activism for any rights, because I haven’t felt that any rights are missing for me. I know of transpeople who are legally married in India, so clearly, marriage rights are not a problem either. All said and done, however taboo a sex change might be for the Indian society, at least the law doesn’t seem to have anything against it.

Which is why the EC move left me numb this morning. It was a feeling of helplessness, given by a fear that my right to choose my identity might be filched away. It is all fine and idealistic to think that whatever they do and say cannot affect my real self, but then, I cannot deny the feeling of unbridled joy when my surgeon gave me a certificate declaring me ‘Female’, nor the ecstasy of looking at my beautiful new Passport next to the old one stamped ‘Void’.

And so, I finished my meetings, rushed home and sat on the internet, looking for more information on the matter. And to my relief, what I gathered from the news stories was that ‘Others’ is a choice available to transpeople and eunuchs if they wish to use it, but ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ are just as much open as choices too! A couple of links:

Yes yes, I agree with you, The Times of India. A welcome move, indeed!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Discussion on Sexuality! - Why Not?

For a long time now, an idea of a talk show based exclusively on sexuality has been brewing in my mind. A few months back, I started approaching news channels with a concept for such a show. Finally, after repeated attempts and efforts, CNN-IBN responded and said that for now, they would be willing to let me host a 10-minute chat on an episode of their existing show ‘Y Not’! I thought it over and decided that I would give it a try. After all, it was, at least, a beginning.

So, on the coming Friday, i.e. Oct 30, at 8:30 pm, you can catch me hosting this chat on CNN-IBN. I will be in discussion with a few other friends, a few of whom identify themselves with the sexual minorities and a few who don’t.

Do watch it! And spread the word around!