When I was a kid, the festival of Rakshabandhan always cast a gloomy cloud upon my head. It made me feel lonely, sad, and jealous upon seeing the hands of other boys my age adorned with colorful rakhis. I was not a misanthrope who could not stand other people’s happiness. Rather, I was just a little boy who also wished that someone would tie a rakhi on my wrist. I am a Muslim trans man, so I used my religion as an excuse when my school used to celebrate informal collective Rakhi festival with a motive that no boy’s wrist should be empty (except they left me out), and I was forced by my teachers and peers to tie a rakhi on someone’s hand. I remember, every time this festival was celebrated in school, I used to go home and stare dejectedly at my own bare wrist. The colorful threads of rakhi signified to me a validation that I was seeking; the validation of being a boy, the validation of my gender identity.
Then I was exposed to feminism and realized how Rakshabandhan is a patriarchal festival. I understood that, but even feminism couldn’t stop me from feeling melancholic by the curse of the empty wrist for many more years to come. Moreover, it’s not about patriarchy or feminism. It is about the selfishness of the society and how it chooses to validate my gender according to its own comfort.
I am a Muslim trans man, so I used my religion as an excuse when my school used to celebrate informal collective Rakhi festival with a motive that no boy’s wrist should be empty (except they left me out)
During childhood, whenever it was about bringing household things from the market, making plans, standing in lines or anything which is expected from a man, I was sent to do it with a lullaby in my ears that, ‘I am a boy’. I always felt euphoric doing these chores not because I wanted to do them but because I was getting the validation that I was looking for my gender. But when it came to my pronouns, society’s eyes were as barren as a desert and they always referred to me as ‘she/her’. After puberty, when the female secondary sexual characteristics became obvious, suddenly everyone expected me to behave more like a daughter and certain restrictions crept around my life.
In 2016, when my mother, unexpectedly, died due to a heart attack, it took me a while to accept that she was no more and was never going to come back no matter how much I shout and scream. I wanted to say my final goodbye and go to the graveyard when she was being buried to pour three handfuls of soil on the grave and accept the fact that she was dead. But damn this patriarchy; ‘girls are not allowed to go to a graveyard.’ And so, I was not allowed to do even that. I felt as if my right to grieve for my mother being her child was being hijacked by these believers who were incapable of understanding the depth of my emotions.
Just a few days after my mother’s death, I found myself standing in the long queues outside banks and ATMs to withdraw cash due to demonetization, when all I wanted to do was to cry in the comfort of my home. Again it felt as if I was being treated as either a son (conventionally) or a daughter as per the convenience of the people around me.
In 2017, my sister was getting married. By then, I had already started my transition, grown facial hair and easily passed as a man. I felt elated dressing up in all masculine clothes. Still, whenever I was introduced to anyone at the wedding it was as the sister of the bride, not as her brother. This caused my dysphoria to twirl and swirl inside me, my inner-self was screaming “I AM A MAN,” but I kept mum because I didn’t want to create a scene. At the end of the day, it was the bride and groom’s day, not mine.
We have a tradition where the bride’s brother holds the Quran Sharif over the bride’s head while the other brothers hold the chunni over her, while she is entering the room. I was standing right there, I wanted to hold the Quran Sharif over my sister but again I was not allowed to do it. One of my cousins got to do that. In the other rituals happening over the course of the wedding, sometimes people treated me as a man and sometimes they treated me as a girl, according to their comfort. I ended up trying my best to hide the dysphoria, hurt, suffocation, and sadness behind a smile throughout the wedding.
In the other rituals happening over the course of the wedding, sometimes people treated me as a man and sometimes they treated me as a girl, according to their comfort. I ended up trying my best to hide the dysphoria, hurt, suffocation, and sadness behind a smile throughout the wedding.
All such incidents made me uncomfortable and vulnerable and pushed me away from my family and society. I, as a trans man craved for the slightest of acceptance and validation from anyone. Over the years, after coming out of a relationship in which I suffered from intimate partner violence, some unhealthy friendships, and eating issues, therapy helped me a lot. lt helped me understand that acceptance is what I lacked in life.
If you are reading this article then you might be able to empathize with me as well as hundreds of other trans people. There are a lot of people in our society who are selfish, ignorant, egoistic and have no regard for others who are a part of the problem. It is because of such people that people like me still suffer. It is not right to make fun of someone just because you can’t understand them or mistreat them without even considering how they might feel.
It’s time that people stop treating trans people like third-class citizens. We are also human and it hurts when someone misbehaves or takes away our rights without any consideration. Such incidents leave scars sometimes hidden and sometimes visible. Our tears, those lonely nights when we cry under the blanket, those unspoken words which we could not ever utter due to fear, that shame which we felt after someone shouted some nasty comment at us while we were out just buying groceries, that physical violence that sometimes leaves larger scars mentally than physically and so many similar incidents of violence that we choose not to talk about, all such experiences that we go through everyday matter.
Although in this cishetropatriarchy, we often feel like they don’t. Let’s strive to make every individual’s struggle and narrative equally valid such that we live in a world where everyone respects one another and is kind to one and all.
Also read: My Pursuit Of Finding My Home As A Trans Man
I shall keep going to therapy and patiently wait for the day when our society and nation will become more accepting of the diversity of people that live in our country. Even if the mentality of the people doesn’t change, I will still be a man no matter what anyone says.
Featured Image Source: Washington Post