I’m Bonita. I’m a trans woman. I’m 30 years old and live in a small locality in Imphal West district.
I was a good student, above average if not a topper. I sat for my high school examinations in 2005 and passed with high marks. At that time I didn’t know what my gender identity was. I didn’t feel myself to be a boy. I wasn’t able to show any masculinity; rather I transfigured myself as girlish. This made people laugh at me, and the laughter became harsh to my mind. So I didn’t want the company of my friends and mates. I felt isolated and became secluded. At the same time my parents also restricted me from playing and associating with girls. They didn’t want me to behave like a girl. They thought of me as their son, which was contrary to my inner sense and feelings.
After my matriculation I was admitted to a co-educational higher secondary school by my parents. But I felt odd sitting with boys on the same bench. I was always silent, never uttering a single word to my bench mates. With each passing day I felt more and more reluctant to attend classes. I wasn’t able to pay attention to my studies and feared expressing what I felt inside. So I started bunking school, telling lies to my parents.
Somehow I passed my 12th standard and got admitted to a premier college in Imphal. Here too, the same thing happened. My classmates started avoiding me because of my gender identity and gender expressions. Even when it came to sitting on a bench, it became a problem. I found it unpleasant to sit with the boys, but also couldn’t sit with the girls. I bore it for some time. But the sense of isolation grew and I dropped out in the second year of college.
I also began expressing my trans identity as I could no longer bear hiding it. I kept my hair long and dressed up as a girl. My family members scolded me and thrashed me whenever they saw me like this. When I couldn’t bear it anymore, I ran away from home and took shelter in a beauty parlour run by some of my trans sisters. I learnt the trade from them and soon after started my own beauty parlour. I also learnt tailoring and made dresses.
When I started earning and helped my family financially, they too started accepting me gradually. But in my heart I knew I wanted more from life. The beauty parlour was a refuge but not my real goal in life. So after a few years, I enrolled myself in another college and completed my graduation. Now I have become a transgender rights advocate, trying to address those discriminatory issues that not only I but most transgender people face in Manipur. It’s a long journey, but I’m not one to run away!
Written by Bonita Pebam with support from Thingnam Anjulika Samom, freelance journalist and gender rights activist.