Kajal Nepali and Aditi Sharma became the first trans women to get an official identity card from the Uttarakhand government; it recognises them as members of the transgender community. The state has joined the league of states like Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu which have taken the lead in providing certificates and identity cards to transgenders to avail welfare schemes. It was in November last year that the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had launched a national portal for transgender persons where they could apply for certificates and identity cards.
Hemlata Pandey, a district social welfare officer in Dehradun, said: “We are yet to notify The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019. At present the state lacks data of transgender persons living in the state and separate welfare schemes for them. But my department has initiated a process to gather information from other departments about the welfare schemes they have for transgenders.”
Getting a legal ID card was a huge relief for Aditi, it will help establish her identity. “The mismatch in my appearance; a male on my phone and on the ID card and a female in-person would puzzle people at the front desk in hotels and other places. All my efforts to make officials in the district administration understand had failed. I would make several rounds of their offices for an ID card. But this new official I-card has ended my ordeal,” she told Newsclick.
However, Aditi has been mentioned as a kinner (eunuch ) in Hindi and a transgender in English on her newly-made Adhaar card. “I tried to reason with the people in the office that I am not a kinner but they said this was the Hindi word for a transgender,” she said, adding that she did not want to press the issue and indulge in another prolonged battle. “People in my neighborhood too think I am a eunuch. They find it difficult to understand the intricacies which make a person a transgender,” she added.
However Kajal has no such issue in lines being blurred; she lives with a eunuch community to earn her living by dancing on weddings and child births. Sources said she has been discouraged from interacting with the media to not to expose her real identity as a trans woman, which could make many in the eunuch community uncomfortable. She remained inaccessible when Newsclick reached out to her.
There are no such constraints for Aditi, who is financially independent and running a small boutique in Dehradun. In order to “complete herself”, she had also undergone a sexual reassignment surgery in a Delh-based hospital three months ago. “All the doctors whom I consulted discouraged me from going under the knife. They called it a psychological disorder. However I did not relent. Now I feel on the top of the world after my surgery, which went very well,” Aditi added.
If inching towards femininity gave her immense joy, the gradual transformation also brought sorrow, of her having disconnected from her family. “There are times when I cry and feel utterly lonely despite me being surrounded by friends most of the time. I miss my family, especially during festivals. My parents come to meet me at times, but I have not visited my home in Uttarkashi for the last two years. My parents ask me to come at night and leave early in the morning but I don’t even want to risk that. What if any of my neighbours or relatives spot me? They will keep taunting my parents,” she added.
Aditi has already suffered through such an incident four years ago. “My photos where I was dressed as a glam doll during the first LGBTQ Pride Parade in Dehradun in 2017 went viral. The joy disappeared when I got a barrage of calls from my parents, neighbours and relatives from Uttarkashi, who rebuked me for bringing a bad name to the family. My brother has not talked to me since then. I panicked and decided to end my life but people from my community came to my rescue and extended their emotional support,” Aditi said.
She remembers her childhood with a pinch of salt. “No one in Uttarkashi knew about trans persons when I was growing up. I too was unaware of this and felt deeply hurt when my friends and neighbours would tease me and pass hurtful remarks for the femininity in my gait and speech. I preferred the company of girls and dressed up like them in my room where my parents would often catch me red-handed and chide me badly. I yearned for the attention of guys,” she said.
After she moved to Dehradun a decade ago, leaving her graduation course mid-way, she was fortunate to land a job at a boutique which taught her to design, tailor and, most importantly, “be independent. I changed a few more jobs in the boutique sector and then got to work with a woman employer who would egg me on to dress up like a woman. Though I finally started my own boutique a couple of years ago, I meet her quite often,” she added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected her business too. “My income has taken a hit but I am thankful to God that I am still able to help many people from the queer community who come and stay at my place for several days at a stretch due to their hardships,” she said.
She is unwilling to marry, saying she had “suffered enough”. A Facebook friend raped and abandoned her in a jungle at night close to five years ago – bruised and hurt she made her way back home with great difficulty. “I want to devote my life for social causes, especially to train poor girls in the skill of designing and tailoring to enable them to be self-sufficient in life.”
Aditi also wants to continue travelling with her friends time to time. She is seen as a role model and is a subject of envy for many who could not break the shackles. “I always wanted to live free, without any suppression or guilt,” she said.
The writer is a freelance journalist.