Our Lives, Our Words – Telling Aravani Lifestories documents the lives of several trans women who have been part of the many fights they’ve had to put on, to gain legal and societal acceptance in our society. Through the book, A. Revathi brings forward these marginalised voices and demands a space for them.
By bringing together these perspectives, Revathi shines light on the struggles and the victories that the community has faced, and holds up a mirror to our transphobic and misogynist society.
Fear. I was scared to walk on the road for fear of people recognizing me. I was worried someone might tease me while I walk on the road. I was afraid the police might arrest me. I avoided taking the bus, not sure whom I could sit next to. I was scared to use the public toilet for fear that people might know my difference. I was scared that rotten tomatoes might hit me in the market. I was scared of falling in love for fear of being hit hard. Fear of anything and everything. Why am I so scared? This question haunts me.
Is it the fear of having changed into a hijra through castration?Or that I was born a male but wore female clothing? Is it due to the way I live—cast aside by my parents, unrecognized by society, penalized by the law and begging or prostituting for a living? What mistake did I commit? Did not my mother bear me for ten months,like my siblings? Why should I suffer this fate? Why should I live in perennial fear all my life? Can’t people understand how much I am suffering—like the curd churned by the ladle or the worm burnt in the heat?
Are they Gods at all who create us with male bodies but give us female feelings? Are my parents responsible for this? Am I simply shameless to put on this garb? Who am I? Which gender do I belong to? Is it right or wrong to be thus? Where will I find answers to my questions?
In India, Ardhanareeswara, who is half male and half female, is worshipped. Why would such a country abuse hijras? How could those of you who have read the story of Shikhandi in Mahabharat refuse to understand hijras? Are basic human rights meant only for males and females? Aren’t hijras human enough to enjoy those same rights? Aren’t we citizens of this country? Don’t we deserve to get voting rights, a passport, a driving license, a ration card, property rights? How justified is it to say that since I was born a male, I can get access to these rights only if I remain a male? Don’t I have the right to reassign my gender identity? Why do you refuse to understand me and my emotions?
I did not purchase these emotions, nor did I borrow them. I was made thus by nature. Respect that. Recognize me as a woman and give me all the rights given to a woman.
A man and a woman love each other and get married. Why are the law and society denying me the right to marry a man? Why don’t they accept our relationship? We understand you in all possible roles—as brother, sister, mother, father, friend, or teacher. We can understand all these relationships and their emotions. Why can’t you do the same? You are unable to consider us as human beings. I get the point now—it is not our fault. It’s the mistake of society.
Excerpted with permission from Our Lives, Our Words – Telling Aravani Lifestories By A. Revathi, Yoda Press. You can buy this book at 20% off at the FII-Yoda Press Winter Book Sale on 21st and 22nd December 2018 in New Delhi. For more details, check out the sale page.