Trans women are raped too . . .

I’m Santa Khurai, 38 years old and live in Imphal East district. I’m a trans woman. For the last 10-15 years I have been working as a gender rights activist, striving for recognition of the rights of the gender and sexual minority communities.

During the course of my work, I have come across many happy and sad moments. However, since the last few weeks, my mind has been deeply troubled by frequent incidents of rape of minor girls. Altogether five minor girls were brutally gang-raped in separate incidents as per news reports.

These incidents remind me that rape and other sexual violence is an integral part of the lives of many trans women too. Many of us have been raped and/or molested at an early age – mostly by neighbours or even family members.

I too was raped when I was in class VI. I don’t even know how old I must have been then – maybe around 11 or 12. As children we would play around in the neighbourhood, and taking advantage of this, a male neighbour called me in and asked me to massage his back. He too stroked my back as people do with children. I must have dozed off briefly when I woke up with an intense pain and found that he was raping me.

Terrified and in great pain, I somehow ran away from the room and stood trembling near the open pit latrine nearby. I was weeping copiously. My mother came and asked me why I was crying but I couldn’t even say a word – in a way I was too young to even understand properly what he had done to me. Blood was trickling down my leg. This man came rushing and told my mother that I had problem defecating and hence the blood.

My mother thought I had piles and tried all kinds of home remedies. I was still too scared to tell her the truth. Even today when I recall the pain and horror of that moment I feel very angry. I feel disgusted sometimes with men thinking of their lust which makes them blind to the pain of others.

I’m sure that there are many more cases of sexual violence against trans women, which remain hidden and unreported due to fear of backlash, stigma and discrimination in our patriarchal society. The nature of men taking advantage of our expression and preference of female identity is condemnable.

It needs to be recognized that such heinous acts increase our vulnerability, thereby curtailing our development in all sectors including education and economic activity. This is the reason why I shall continue my fight for gender justice.

Written by Santa Khurai with support from Thingnam Anjulika Samom, freelance journalist and gender rights activist.

Note: Santa Khurai is fourth from the left in the photograph above.

Queues and toilets scare me!

I’m Thoibi, 46 years old, and I live in a small village in Imphal West district. I am a trans man and I have a fear regarding queues and toilets. This might sound weird to other people, but to me this is a genuine feeling. For example, when I go to a hospital to get treatment for myself or someone close to me, just the thought of standing in the queue for OPD tickets makes me want to forget about whatever illness or pain I or my family member has, and run away instead.

Biologically I am female but my gender identity and gender expression are masculine. But there are queues for men and women only, not for trans men or trans women. So where do I stand in the queue? Do I stand in the line for men as my gender identity demands, or do I stand with the women as per my body organs? Most times I have to stand in the line for women but this makes me feel embarrassed and uneasy.

Once when I was actively practicing karate, I had gone for a national competition along with many of my friends. There, during our free time, we decided to go for a movie. It was Mission Kashmir starring Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta. We were all very keen as we do not get a chance to see Hindi films in a cinema hall in Manipur because of a ban on Hindi films by an underground outfit.

When I stood in the women’s queue for the tickets, the women started scolding me, almost beating me up even, and drove me away, saying “Why is a man standing in the ladies line?” It took some time for me to make them listen to me and understand. Responses like these are quite common because of my physical appearance.

It is the same in the case of toilets in public facilities such as hospitals, airports, markets and educational institutions where there are toilets marked only “Men” and “Women.” If I go into the men’s toilet, I find it awkward seeing all the men peeing there. But when I go into a women’s toilet, it’s the same. Hence many a times, I hold myself from urinating till I reach home, no matter how strong the urge is. Sometimes I wonder whether this has contributed to the frequent occurrence of stones in my kidney.

I also often think that if there were separate queues and separate toilets for trans men and other transgender persons, then a lot of these health issues and social embarrassments would decrease.

Written by Thoibi with support from Thingnam Anjulika Samom, freelance journalist and gender rights activist.

No share of family property for me because I have a vagina . . .

I’m Hemabati. I’m 39 years old and live in Imphal East district. I’m a trans man. My partner Nanao and I have been living together for 13 years now in my house. But some of my family members still do not treat us like a couple.

Since 2005, a year after Nanao came, my brother set up a separate kitchen along with his wife and two children, even though we continue to live in the same house. My mother who used to eat with me and Nanao also started cooking her own food since late 2015, after I asked her to give me my share of the family property.

We might be trans men, but first we are human beings!

Nanao and I want to live properly, in a small place separately to call our own. My father died in my childhood. The registration of the homestead land was transferred from my father to my brother’s name a few years back as he needed a loan. But now, my brother is adamantly refusing to transfer back some land to me.

Whenever I insist on my inheritance, a major quarrel ensues. He verbally abuses me, and even says things like “You with vagina, why would I give to one with vagina? You can stay in this house till your death, you can even die here, but I won’t give you even 25-paise worth!”

The neighbourhood is supportive, but my mother is not understanding enough. I want this to be resolved while she is alive because the frequent quarrel among us siblings is only providing entertainment for the neighbourhood. I tell her, “Ima, while you are living, I want to build a house separately of my own. And when there is some facility available for trans people, I want to apply for loans, etc. So please transfer at least a small area to me.”

But every time I say this to her, she vanishes for a few days without telling us where she is going. Now I want to take legal recourse but I am also hesitant as this is a within-the-family affair.

As told to Thingnam Anjulika Samom, freelance journalist and gender rights activist.