The submission for October issue (Vol. 4, No. 2) is going on. The last date of submission is 30 September, 2023.

Uncovering the Plight of India's Transgender Community through Autobiographical Narratives

 


Uncovering the Plight of India's Transgender Community through Autobiographical Narratives

Muskan Bhati

M.A. (English)

Sharda University

Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India

Abstract: 

Explores the plight of the transgender community in India, which has largely been left behind in the country's rapid progress. While the Supreme Court recognized the existence of a third gender in 2014, much work remains to be done in terms of improving the treatment and experiences of this community. Autobiographical works such as " "I am Vidya," "A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi,"  "The Truth About Me," "A Life in Trans Activism," and "Our Lives, Our Words," provide valuable insights into the realities faced by Hijras in Indian society. By reading these works, individuals can increase their awareness and understanding of the challenges and struggle that this marginalized community faces on a daily basis.

Keywords: Autobiography, Gender, Identity, Hijra, Transgender, Discrimination

Introduction 

For many years, the hijra community in India has faced immense discrimination and marginalization due to their gender identity. Born biologically male or intersex, hijras identify as female or transgender and have been subject to social, legal, and economic disparities. Despite this, hijras have a rich cultural history dating back to ancient India and have been referenced in various religious texts and mythologies. This research paper delves into the themes of gender and identity as explored in autobiographies written by hijras. These works, including "I am Vidya," "A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi,"  "The Truth About Me," "A Life in Trans Activism," and "Our Lives, Our Words," shed light on the diverse experiences, struggles, and triumphs of the hijra community. By reading these narratives, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the fight for existence and basic rights that the transgender community faces in India. These autobiographies also serve as a source of hope and inspiration, showcasing the strength and resilience of those who have fought against discrimination and prejudice.

A. Revathi 

Revathi, also known as Asha Krishnan, is an Indian transgender activist, actress, and writer. She was born on October 5, 1966, in Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, India. Revathi grew up in a conservative family and realized at a young age that she identified as a woman. She faced discrimination and harassment from her family and society due to her gender identity. Despite this, she continued her education and graduated with a degree in Commerce from the University of Madras. In 1984, Revathi moved to Chennai to pursue her acting career. She acted in several Tamil and Malayalam films, including "Thevar Magan" and "Kilukkam." She was a popular actress and received critical acclaim for her performances. However, Revathi faced discrimination and harassment in the film industry due to her gender identity. She decided to come out as a transgender woman and became a vocal advocate for transgender rights. In 2000, she founded the Tamil Nadu Aravanigal Association, a support group for transgender individuals. Revathi has also written several books, including "The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story," which chronicles her life as a transgender woman. The book was well-received and won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2016. Revathi continues to be an advocate for transgender rights and has worked with several organizations to promote awareness and equality. She has also been recognized for her contributions to the LGBTQ+ community and was awarded the Chevalier de la L├ęgion d'Honneur, the highest civilian award in France, in 2019. Revathi's life story is one of perseverance and advocacy for marginalized communities. She has inspired many individuals to live their truth and fight for their rights. Revathi's autobiography is divided into 3 parts which help to understand the story of their life in a systematic way. Let's take a look of these 3 parts of their life. 

The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story (2010) 

The First part describes Revathi's childhood and the struggles she faced growing up as a transgender person. Is an autobiography written by A. Revathi, a transgender activist and writer from Tamil Nadu, India. The book chronicles Revathi's journey of self-discovery and the struggles she faced as a hijra (a term used in South Asia to describe individuals who do not identify as male or female). Revathi describes her childhood in a rural village in Tamil Nadu and the challenges she faced as a hijra, including discrimination, violence, and social exclusion. She also writes about her experiences as a sex worker and the stigma associated with this profession. Throughout the book, Revathi shares her thoughts on gender identity, sexuality, and social justice. She also sheds light on the hijra community in India and the efforts made by activists to fight for their rights."The Truth About Me" is a powerful and poignant memoir that offers a rare glimpse into the life of a hijra in India. It has received widespread critical acclaim for its honesty, compassion, and courage in addressing issues that are often ignored or marginalized in mainstream society.

The author's aims to insist through this novel are very clear. She doesn't have any selfish motive for personal benefits. That is why, instead of securing a separate recognition for Transgender, Revathi wants everyone including the government to treat them as other mainstream people. She wants to remove the borderline between sexual minorities and mainstream society. She also Exhorted now and then even directly or indirectly the society that at the back of every painful struggle, there Will be success. Because Revathi's incessant fighting spirit and willpower changed other's life drastically. For instance, the Indian government agreed to add a third gender or cis-gender (M/F/T) in the gender list like Male, Female and Transgender. Therefore, this remarkable change done by the government is considered to Be the first success for transgender people. Nowadays, the third gender people involve or take part in all 

Our Lives, Our Words: Telling Aravani Life Stories (2011) 

The second part of the book tells Revathi's journey to become a hijra and her life in the transgender community. Words" is a collection of short stories and essays by A. Revathi, a transgender activist and writer from Tamil Nadu, India. The book includes Revathi's personal reflections on her experiences as a transgender woman, as well as her observations on various social and political issues related to gender and sexuality. The stories In the collection offer a diverse range of perspectives and experiences, including the struggles faced by transgender individuals in India, the challenges of coming out to family and friends, and the impact of discrimination and violence on the transgender community. Through her writing, Revathi aims to raise awareness about the experiences of transgender individuals and to promote greater understanding and acceptance of gender diversity in society. She also advocates for the rights of transgender individuals and works to promote social justice and equality for all.

"Our Lives, Our Words" is a powerful and thought-provoking collection that challenges readers to question their assumptions about gender and sexuality and to consider the experiences of marginalized communities.

A Life in Trans Activism (2016) 

The final part of the book describes her work as an activist and journalist, highlighting the issues faced by the transgender community in India. It is the time when Revathi starts working as an activist in NGO Sangama. Their mission is to spread awareness about transgender and the problems faced by transgender. Revathi's book highlights several issues faced by the transgender community in India. One of the main issues highlighted in the book is the discrimination and violence faced by the community. Transgender people in India are often marginalized, excluded from society, and subjected to violence and discrimination. Revathi's book provides a vivid account of the discrimination and violence faced by the transgender community in India. She is an independent activist, theatre person, actor and writer, and works for the rights of transgender persons. 

Revathi's books work as a mirror to society about the violence and disrespect towards transgender. Also, show people that transgender people are normal people like us.

Manabi Bandyopadhyay 

Bandyopadhyay was born on January 13, 1978, in Naihati, West Bengal. She is the 1st t transgender person to become the principal of a college in India. She served as the principal of Krish Nagar Women's College in West Bengal. She works for their community rights in their area. She wrote several books on gender and their memoir 'A Gift of Goddess Laxmi'. She was also awarded Joy Bangla Award and the Ananya Samman Award.

A Gift of Goddess Laxmi (2017) 

The book provides a vivid account of her experiences growing up in a conservative family, struggling with her gender identity, and facing discrimination and social stigma The book starts with Bandyopadhyay's childhood and describes her early years as a boy named Somnath. She talks about her struggles with gender dysphoria and her experiences with bullying and discrimination in school. The author then discusses how she came to terms with her gender identity and eventually underwent gender reassignment surgery to become Manabi Bandyopadhyay also shares her experiences as an academician, writer, and activist. She talks about the challenges she faced as a transgender woman in the education system and her efforts to create a safe and inclusive environment for transgender students and staff. She also discusses her involvement in various LGBTQ+ organizations and her work to raise awareness about the rights of transgender individuals.

There are some lines in the book which make an impact on the reader's mind which shows how they are treated, the stories of sexual assault, how they feel, and how people react and behave with the person when they know that person is transgender. How the mentality of a person shifts when your friends and people around you suddenly change their perspective towards you. 

·         When I was gradually metamorphosing into someone else right in front of his eyes, the Whole world noticed, but my father chose to look the other way for as long as he could. (Bandyopadhyay, p. 6)

·         I was developing a distaste for my genitals. I just couldn't accept my balls and my penis. I wanted to have my sister's genitals… (Bandyopadhyay, p. 8)

·         He was like a tiger who had tasted human blood, and lurked here and there, trying to corner Me every now and then. Gradually it became a routine, both for him and me. (Bandyopadhyay, p. 9)

·         My soul and sexuality did not match the image I saw in the mirror. I would look at that Otherwise perfect reflection and weep for hours. I felt like tearing away and escaping from The man's body in which I was born. (Bandyopadhyay, p. 109) 

 

The story of Manabi Bandyopadhyay gives motivation or hope to transgender that they achieve anything what they want. After a lot of struggle and pain Manabi achieve such a great position in society which many men or women could not achieve in their whole life. 

Living Smile Vidya

She was born on 25th March 1982. Living smile vidya is an Indian trans women actor, assistant director, writer, a trans and Dalit rights activist. In 2013, she was awarded a scholarship by the Charles Wallace India Trust to pursue theatre in the UK. She completes 6 months of theatre training at the London International School of Performing Arts. In 2014, she becomes co-founder of the Panmai theatre troup in Tamil Nadu. Panmai production Include Included The Trans 2.0 which is performed in India and the United States. In 2019, she performed her piece, Scars, in Switzerland. The piece touches on the mental and physical scars that associated with having her male body blend into her feminine identity. Smiley's autobiography 'I Am Vidya' was originally written in Tamil and then translated into 7 other languages including English. 

I Am Vidya (2007) 

This Autobiography shows how transgender go through their life and how they turn into a victim of partial changes in body. Autobiographies are how the storyteller speaks a lot with a reader and tells an unfiltered side of a story of their own. That direct contact with the reader makes a direct connection and portrays the real-life scenarios from they are going through. Mostly all autobiographies that are based on a transgender community are full of pains and sorrows. Every autobiography has its different struggles at different levels of society. Vidya was born on 25 March 1982 and named Saravanan by her parents. She was a Precious child to her parents. Their parents offered prayers to god for a boy child. After the birth of Saravanan, they believed that their desire was completed. They didn't expect their son to change his sex. Being born as a Boy, he gained more love from her parents, sisters and friends. After the change of gender, the love of their family and friends turned fluid. 

Amma, Amma, I have become a woman.

I am not Saravanan any more,

I am Vidya-a complete Vidya- a whole woman…

Radha, please Radha, I am no longer your brother Radha.

I am your sister now, your sister…

Look at me, Appa. Look at me as a woman.

Accept me as a girl, Appa. (Vidya, 9)

These lines from the autobiography have 2 mixed emotions. 1st emotion of Sarvana who accepted himself and was happy to become what he always want to be. On the other hand, the reaction of family changes the happiness of their self-acceptance make a burden of feelings and baggage of pain. Throughout the autobiography, there are lots of scenes which show the difficulty that transgender faces in their daily life. She also mentions how people start treating them when their sexuality comes outside. How teasing starts from the home to the classroom and later extend to the locality and society as well. Also, a student from the lower class starts teasing and making fun of her sexuality. When we are kids, we don't aware that our jokes and fun on the sexuality of a person can make a horrible life for the person. So awareness starts from childhood about the sexuality of a person. Lately, she mentioned how the NGO and their further life event make changes to their lives and how she stands against all of them for their respect and dignity. 

God created every person with a mission to accomplish the person who is strong God chooses a difficult path for them. Vidya is strong and independent transgender who stands for their rights. 

Conclusion 

The autobiographical narratives of the transgender community in India provide a glimpse into their daily struggles and the constant rejection they face. Despite the challenges, these narratives also demonstrate the resilience and strength of the transgender community. One common theme that emerges is the importance of self-acceptance and self-advocacy in the fight for recognition and respect. These autobiographies highlight how society's perception towards the transgender community has evolved with time. It is crucial to raise awareness and eliminate social stigmas surrounding the third gender. As a society, we need to stand with the transgender community and recognize their existence and rights. By doing so, we can promote inclusivity and diversity and create a more equitable society for all.

Works Cited

Dyana, Dr R. Magdaline. "Poignant Status of Transgender in India; an Autobiography of I Am Vidya." Journal of Emerging Technologies and Innovative Research (JETIR), Mar. 2019, https://www.jetir.org/papers/JETIR1903482.pdf.

Fii team. "Book Excerpt: A Life In Trans Activism By A. Revathi." Feminism in India, 14 June 2018, https://feminisminindia.com/2018/06/14/book-excerpt-a-life-in-trans-activism-by-a-revathi/. Accessed 20 Apr. 2023.

Hazarika, Pratishi. "Examining the Nuances of Trauma through a Survivor's Testimony: A Study of a Gift of Goddess Lakshmi: A Candid Biography of India's First Transgender Principal by Manobi Bandyopadhyay with Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey." Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, vol. 13, no. 1, 2021, https://doi.org/10.21659/rupkatha.v13n1.20.

Sahu, Manjeet Kumar. "National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India & Ors. (Air 2014 SC 1863): A Ray of Hope for the LG BT Community." BRICS Law Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, 2016, pp. 164–175., https://doi.org/10.21684/2412-2343-2016-3-2-164-175.

Singh, S. (2020, November 30). Identical Challenges of Third Gender in India: A Critical Approach to Me Hijra, Me Laxmi. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR INNOVATIVE RESEARCH IN MULTIDISCIPLINARY FIELD. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from WWW.IJIRMF.COM

Thiyagaraja, Dr K. "Exploring the Treatment of Violence in A. Revathi's Autobiography, the ..." International Journal of Creative Research Thoughts (IJCRT), 11 Nov. 2021, https://ijcrt.org/papers/IJCRT2111142.pdf.