What is a normal couple?

I’m Meme. I’m 49 years old and a lesbian. I live with my partner, a trans man in a small village in Imphal West district.

I met my partner through a common friend when I was around 27 years old. Initially my parents didn’t say anything when he used to visit my house, eat with us or even stay overnight at times, perhaps because he is ‘biologically’ a ‘woman’. But later when neighbours and locals started commenting on his gender identity as trans man, my family started showing signs of annoyance, and tried to distance me from him. They tried to find male matches for me, and once even tried to forcibly get me eloped with a man [marriage based on elopement]. Luckily my partner heard about it and rescued me.

Matters came to a head when I stayed at my partner’s house for a few days to nurse him during an illness. My family was very angry with me, and locked me up for the day when I returned. That decided things for me. I came out of the house and stayed with a relative. My partner too came to stay with me and we have stayed together since then.

In between we stayed at my partner’s house in an adjoining village for a few years to help his younger siblings. When they grew up a bit, we built a small shop-cum-home in my own village to survive. I sell cigarettes, biscuits, toffees and paan. In a lean-to adjoining the house, he sells fish and chicken.

Initially friends and relatives would tell me, “Get married, it is sad to see you living like this.” I would tell them, “Right now I have no thoughts of marriage. Later when I do, I will ask you to find me a match.” Now they have stopped saying all these things to me.

Our relationship is full of love though we fight too sometimes. But we also make up as we realize this is our destiny in this life. Our sole worry now is who would look after us in our old age. We have discussed adoption for a long time, but are yet to come to a conclusion on whether we should adopt a relative’s child or an orphan. We don’t even know if we would be allowed to legally adopt a child as people still don’t look at us as a ‘normal couple’.

Even the house we live in now is built on village common land. People from our village can stay here but not outsiders. We have requested for a house number so that we can avail of social security schemes like food security, but we have been told that it may not be possible since we’re not a ‘normal couple’.

What or who is a ‘normal couple’? We love each other, we live together like husband and wife, and we want children. Is that not normal enough?

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

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