In a country where most people can’t cope with ‘anomalies’ in sexual and gender identities, Satyamev Jayate has made visible the hidden struggle endured by millions of Indians. An open discussion on national television on alternative sexualities would have changed my life had I been fortunate enough to watch when I was a 14-year-old Parsi boy struggling with my identity in Mumbai back in the 1990s.
Most people in India do not know what it means to live as a transgender or a hijra. It’s a taboo to speak about sexuality and gender variance in our society. Hence, when I was invited to tell my story to Aamir Khan on an episode of Satyamev Jayate – a television show that’s watched across the globe by tens of millions – I said ‘yes’ without a second thought.
It was raining the day we taped, and I was nervous. When Aamir entered the studio, I had butterflies in my stomach. Before I was invited on stage for the interview, I closed my eyes and asked myself if I was doing the right thing? Instantly an affirming ‘yes’ came from within. It was my time to tell the world that there is nothing wrong with being a transgender.
The interview began with a dramatization of my childhood. I sat there with Aamir as my struggle played on the big screen behind me. By the end of the clip, I could see tears in his eyes. When he asked me If I would like to go back to my biological family, I just said, “No, Khan saab, I will never go back. My family is now my hijra community who have stood beside me. There was a time in my life as a young boy when I needed my biological family the most, but they didn’t even hear me out. Now I don’t need them. My life is dedicated only for hijras who have supported me during my struggling days, and I shall give my last breath to them.”
When we tell our stories as members of India’s LGBT community, we change the future. I will be always grateful for the opportunity to share my story on Satyamev Jayate. When I tell my story, it’s not for sympathy. I want people to understand what it means to be transgender. I have worked for many years now advocating for the rights of transgenders and hijras, particularly those who are HIV-positive and facing a double stigma that comes with breaking gender norms and living with HIV. I hope a day will come soon when no human being will face such discrimination, and no one will die of AIDS.
The author of this post, Simran Shaikh, is a Programme Officer for Pehchan at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi.
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