i⋅den⋅ti⋅ty [ahy-den-ti-tee, i-den-]
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.
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
’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? India
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.
Photographer: Paramita Nath
Hair styling: Bhavesh Karia
Post: Abhilash Augustine
Special thanks to: SM, NB, Vikram Phukan, Jerry Johnson]