My family identified me as a boy when I was born. They call me Kabir, a boy’s name. As I grew up, I became more and more certain of my gender identity as female. I eventually became convinced that gender transition was absolutely necessary for me to achieve peace of mind. Arina is the name I have chosen for my new identity.
My family is adamantly opposed to my transition. Their solution for the problem my gender dysphoria presents them with, is to torture me out of it. It is impossible to overstate what a difficult thing it is to be born as a transgender girl to a traditional Muslim family in a conservative rural village in West Bengal. Since I has no independent income, and because my severe anxiety disorder renders me unemployable, I presently have no option but to remain with my family and endure their abuse.
I run a blog named Diary of a Muslim Transgender Girl. I have a degree in Bengali literature. Someday, I hope to be in better circumstances so I can pursue an advanced degree in the field of psychology.
It is very difficult to live with untreated mental illness which interferes with your daily life and forces you to do things that you didn’t intend to do. The hardship is doubled when you don’t have any kind of support from friends and family. The stigma, the lack of understanding and fierce denial of the existence of my mental illness from relatives; and looking healthy from the outside is making my survival next to impossible.
I eventually became convinced that gender transition was absolutely necessary for me to achieve peace of mind.
Like many other effeminate boys, I had a tormented childhood. Getting bullied, teased and even beaten by my family for acting in a manner that was perceived as unacceptable with my assigned sex, was a daily part of my young life. But there was something superimposed to my sexuality, troubling my adolescence. It was my poor mental health.
The bullies did their job by causing me to be socially awkward. I avoided all social events in which I could be the subject of ridicule. I dealt with it by isolating myself in my room and believing in fairy tales, all the while confronting my bullies in my dreams as a way to avoid teenage depression; which was later identified apparently being due to significant gender dysphoria.
When I grew up, I became aware that my mental illness was becoming disabling. I found myself being unable to do simple things like crossing roads, interacting with people, taking a bus, going to the bank, standing in a queue, taking elevators or escalators. It is hard for me to even maintain personal hygiene.
I always have to depend on someone to help me do things. When I try to do them myself, my fear intensifies and I develop a pounding heart, dizziness and feel as though I’m about to faint. My anxiety sometimes has physical manifestations which resemble paralysis. I had a friend who helped me at times, but then abandoned me later. I begged him not to leave me, to no avail.
I dealt with it by isolating myself in my room and believing in fairy tales, all the while confronting my bullies in my dreams as a way to avoid teenage depression.
Many people have shamed me for having a mental illness. They call me “parasite”, “burden”, “childish” and even “handicapped”. I am not ashamed of being called handicapped, but the way they made it sound was truly hurtful! Some even ridiculed me for getting treatment for mental illness:
“Paying four hundred rupees to a psychiatrist is just a luxury “
“You are taking medicine for fear? Try to read Vivekananda’s books, you will get rid of all your fears!”
“We took you to a counselor twice and you conspired with her to become a woman. Mental illness is just an excuse for you. I think you need a good beating to cure all your mental illness.”
Meanwhile, in an attempt to cure the distress from the significant dysphoria, I self-medicated with female hormones. When my parents discovered my secret attempt at transition, the situation in my home worsened. They tortured, threatened, humiliated, mocked and even tried black magic on me.
I was living in a toxic household with constant persecution from eight family members which only served to fuel my anxiety. I couldn’t run from my parents because my anxiety threw me into a catatonic state. I found it unbearable to endure all their torments for such a prolonged period of time. I could hear them yelling at me even in my sleep. I shook in fear while sleeping!
Abuse feels the same at any age.
I became desperate for help. I called mental health institutions and emailed organisations working with mental health issues and asked them if they could relocate me or if they could provide me with remote primary treatment via Skye to deal with issues like panic attacks or insomnia. But the receptionists at these offices were annoyed at my asking something unusual. I became more desperate and asked about the possibility of electric shock therapy for curing my illnesses. I started hating myself for not being able to free myself from the grip of illness and violence.