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.