I’m Khaba, a college student. I’m 23 years old and a person living with HIV. I’m gay.
Both my parents were also infected with HIV. My father passed away when I was very young. My mother too has passed away. She used to be a government school teacher, and struggled single-handedly to feed and clothe me and my two sisters. When I was young, I would throw tantrums when my mother fed me a white pill every day. At that time I would question her why she fed me the pill. It was only after I threw the pill away one evening that she explained how the pill was my life, and if I stopped taking the pill I wouldn’t see her and my sisters again. After that I agreed to the daily medication.
As a result of my HIV status, stigma and discrimination was part of my life from an early age. There were times when my schoolmates would tell me not to turn my face towards them in the school van fearing that I might infect them. As I grew up I realized the meaning of my friends’ fear and the white pill, and became determined to live long and support my mother. I would go to the market to purchase items for the small grocery shop that she also ran.
At the same time I started avoiding friends who discriminated against me and by the time I reached secondary school, I found a few understanding friends who accepted my HIV status. Many among them were also gay. With them I was happy and felt as if the world was with me.
My happiness was short-lived. In February 2016, my mother passed away, and with that started a new path of difficulties and hindrances in my life. Less than a year after mother’s death, I came to know that she had mortgaged our land. The money-lender now insisted that we pay up five lakh rupees, which included both principal and interest, within a few days to free up the land.
Somehow my aunts and uncles collected the amount, and gave it to my eldest sister. But the next day itself she eloped with her boyfriend, taking the money with her. When she refused to return the money, my second sister, then already married, paid the money-lender and retrieved the land patta from mortgage. Thereafter she insisted that the land deeds should be transferred to her name. Though I offered her the daughter’s share, as traditionally given in Meitei society, she wanted to own the entire property.
Seeing no way out, I sought help from my trans aunty who gave me two lakh rupees which she had been saving up for her sex change surgery. I thought of mortgaging my father’s pension book for another three lakh rupees. But this too was in my second sister’s custody. Even when I offered her the two lakh rupees and requested her to give me back the pension book so that I could mortgage it and repay her money, she didn’t agree. Rather she told me that she had discussed the matter with my eldest sister and they both had decided not to register the land in my name as I had relations with males and they feared that one day I would give away all the property to them.
I had never expected such words from my sisters, especially to a brother who was always downtrodden by the society. Their attitude affected me so much that many a time I even forgot to take my antiretroviral therapy pills (the same white pills).
I’m in mental torture day and night. Without telling anything to anyone I just collected some personal stuff and left my house. Now I don’t know what to do and where to go. My trans aunty, who always supported me, asked me to live with her. But I’m human. I don’t want to leave my house with which all my memories are associated for so long just because of my sexual identity.
Written by Santa Khurai with support from Thingnam Anjulika Samom, freelance journalist and gender rights activist.