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This was a weird experience for me; ironically, the same body I hated for most of my life is now paid for to be “used”. Most of them don’t see me as a person, and I have gotten adjusted to that.

Queerspeak 1.0

It’s a boring Thursday evening for me when I stumble upon a stranger who is, to my shock, approaching me. I am shocked for two reasons: one, it's too early for a customer, two, she’s a woman. I greet her with a smile, questions floating around. She says she wants to know my story. I laugh and hesitate. As I am about to walk away, she urges and says, “I am transgender too. Please, have a cup of tea with me.” I pause for a moment and look at her from head to toe. She seems desperate to talk to me, never breaking eye contact. I ask, 'Will you be quick?' 

I am Lakshmi (name changed). I moved to Chennai about 10 years ago. I love this city and the people - for the most part. I am a sex worker and a transgender woman, but that’s not how I want to introduce myself. I think I should introduce myself as a human first because most often people forget that about me. Life started off pretty okay. I was born in Rajapalayam (a small town in Tamil Nadu). The more I grew up, the more I realized how many people liked making fun of me. I wonder if I should be thankful to them because even before I could self-actualize myself as a woman, they kept telling me that I was one. “You walk like a girl, you talk like a girl” were constant accusations, as if they were a crime. I didn't want to commit the “crime”; that’s just who I was. When my parents bought me and my sister new clothes for Diwali, I didn’t really like my dress, but I loved hers. I think I liked most of her stuff over mine. I thought I was a jealous person. But maybe not because I wanted her to have all those things, just that I wanted them too. I once secretly tried my mother’s red saree. Red has always been my favorite color. I liked everything about it. I felt alive, like I’m on the stage of the world, but really, it was just the same old bedroom. I think around age 11, I couldn't live with the people who saw me as a boy. Not that I looked any more beautiful as a girl or when I dressed as a girl, but something about that fits me. 

I miss my friends, my family, my sister, and my dog. I left them because I kept getting “caught," and I kept getting ashamed. I did not like that. My parents would take me to “God-men” so they could “fix” me. It was demeaning and exhausting that I thought I could go mad. In the most difficult times, all I had was my dog. Sometimes I wish I had brought the dog with me. On bad days, I have thought, am I lesser than the dog? Because the dog stayed in the house, and I couldn't. I have dreams to have a family and a job where people wear beautiful shoes. 

When I left home at 16, I didn’t know where I was going. The farther the train went, the more I wanted to go back home. It was very scary being alone for the first time. I remembered the jokes and the difficult times to keep myself on the train. That’s when I remembered my nicknames in school that are too harsh to be said here. They would often ask me “when did you go to Bombay (Mumbai)?” and giggle to themselves. I might as well go to Mumbai now, because I didn’t know anywhere else. I found a new life in Mumbai. I worked any job I could get. I saved enough money, enough to have my surgery. The money wasn't any money; it was my many sleepless nights, sweat, tears, misery, and hard work. I don’t think other people who worked the same jobs as me saved as much as I did. I knew I needed to save. I wanted to get my body that I wasn't born with. The surgery at that time was not an easy thing to go through; it was extremely painful and scary. I didn't have anyone to comfort me. I didn't tell my friends about it. I thought they would hate me.

It was a very difficult time. After my surgery, I had to move again. I left different traces of me in different places. I was seen as someone in my home, as someone else in Mumbai, and as someone else in Chennai. I was me in all three cities; it took all of my pain for people to finally see me. I was excited for a new life in Chennai. 

I was wrong, completely. I couldn't get a job; life started to crumble before my eyes. I couldn't do anything to stop it. I felt like the world was against me, again. No one was willing to give me a job. My education meant nothing to them because my documents or IDs no longer made sense to them. I went from being invisible to becoming invisible again, but in a different way. People saw me now, but I just didn't exist. I didn't fit again. I wasn’t a part of society. I was naive to dream. I was too innocent to think I'd find a place for me. Society was not made for people like me. 

I eventually met another transgender person who introduced me to the community. Very soon, I started doing sex work to meet the needs of me and the community. I wasn’t fond of it initially. This was a weird experience for me; ironically, the same body I hated for most of my life is now paid for to be “used”. Most of them don’t see me as a person, and I have gotten adjusted to that. Men force me to do things that are unspeakable. Once a man told me, “You should take the pain better than a woman; weren’t you a boy before this?”. I am still haunted as my past follows me in 

the most unguarded situations. But I have met some good people in my life. I am grateful to them. Some have cheated me in the name of love; some have cheated me because they can, they think I am helpless and powerless and I can be taken advantage of. 

I met a guy once; he is from my neighborhood, and we became friends. He was an auto-driver. Late at night he would come pick me up, and we would go on auto drives on empty roads. Those were my happiest days. He would buy me flowers that I would wear in my hair; no one has ever done that for me. I dreamt of a life with him until I found out he is married with kids. I don’t blame him; I am just heartbroken that I am reminded I cannot have “normal” things that I desire. I am now part of the “parivar” in the transgender community. We live together traditionally as a community. I am planning to adopt a daughter and give her a good education. My sufferings should not be repeated to another person, and I have to make sure of it. 

That is my story. As of now. As I am about to leave, the girl who is listening to my story asks why I didn't ask about her story. It’s a cruel world, and it seems it has been a little less cruel to you, so I think I know your story.

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