City-based activist starts organisation for trans community

Chennai: Identify yourself as a transperson and suddenly a multitude of job opportunities suddenly disappear. This very reason forces transpeople to take to begging and in worst cases, prostitution. Shweta, 33, identifies herself as a transgender, and works for the uplift of her community through her organisation – BORN2WIN. The resident of Saidapet talks to News Today about the struggles and hardships she had to go through and her constant battles with society to be where she is today.

Q: Tell us about your early life, when you found out about your sexuality and how you came out to your family.
A: It was around 12 when I first realised that I was a female trapped in a male body. I used to love watching my mom wear a saree, fell in love with a guy from my class, secretly wore bangles, tried flowers on. When I first told my mom, my sexuality was acknowledged with a tight slap and denial. I lost my father very young, and as an elder ‘brother’ I was supposed to take care of my family. But the same family refused to accept an elder feminine ‘brother’ as the breadwinner of the family and threw me out of the house. I had to drop out of school as well, for I was called names, bullied and abused.

Q: Being an outcast, how did you end up creating your own organisation?
A: When I was 15, I was taken in by the transgender community, who claimed to provide jobs to people like me. I was sexually abused by the authorities there and the only job profiles for us were begging and prostitution. I stayed there only because I had nowhere else to go, and I also knew it was the only way I could complete my education. As soon as I got an MA in Sociology (I did my college from an open university – for obvious reasons, chuckles), I left the community. I wanted to do something on my own and that’s how I started BORN2WIN.

Q: Tell us more about BORN2WIN.
A: I started BORN2WIN when I was 22 and it’s been around 11 years now. We do a lot of things for the trans-community, predominantly providing them with education and help them find jobs. We conduct Annual Trans Award and fashion shows and those are our major funding sources. It’s a government registered organisation, but there is little or no support from them. We basically are on our own.

I also go to schools and colleges and conduct sessions for them on gender and sexuality, and provide counselling for other transgenders as many of them end up having suicidal thoughts. We are still struggling, but we have come a long way since. We aim to make members of our community capable of taking up mainstream jobs, so they don’t have to give in to begging or prostitution.

Q: What is your message for other people of your community?
A: If we want to change the way society looks at us, we have to also change ourselves for the better. First I want them to come to terms with their sexuality and own it. Your genitals don’t define your gender, and being a transperson doesn’’t make you any less human. You are beautiful in your own way, and can live your life with dignity, head held up high.

Q: What are your expectations from society?
A: I dream of a day when we become part of society. Today, there is a society and then there is ‘us’. When we are spread across all spheres as teachers, doctors, officers, engineers, then we will become part of it. Don’t treat us as outsiders, because we are not. We belong here, and we also have a heart. Think before laughing at us, or calling us names. Being a trans isn’’t a choice, but being transphobic is. We fight a war every day, to be heard, and to simply be seen as people.

We deal with depression, identity crisis, anxiety issues and suicidal thoughts. Please help a fellow human being out by just respecting us a little. Thats all we ask for, oh yeah and equal opportunities (laughs). I request all parents to accept their children if they come out to them and not become their first bully. It’s okay if he can’t be your king, maybe he was born to be daddy’s princess. Is that too much to ask for? Think about it.

Shweta can be contacted at 9941887862.

( The article was written by Hunar.)

NT Bureau