BEHIND THE ORNA
His name, Javed. Her name, Kakoli.
We are both sitting on the blue polished floor, when an intense beam of light comes through the window, cutting the room in two and separating our figures.
She’s there, trying to hide in her side of the darkness; her eyes and emotions can be glimpsed behind the smoke of a menthol cigarette.
However, she seems comfortable in the shadow, probably protecting that body from a world that stereotypes her as a mistake of nature.
I myself quit smoking a long time ago, but I decided to light up a cigarette to keep her company, hoping to get closer to her.
“I gave birth to a son and I already have a daughter”, replied his mother when Javed expressed the desire to become a girl.
“I was frequently looking down, between my legs, sometimes telling myself that there was no sense. That thing didn't have a connection with the image of me in my head. I kept saying to myself that it wasn’t right that my body would dictate my whole life, that my color was supposed to be blue, my toys cars and cricket, that I was supposed to wear trousers.
I couldn’t act like a boy anymore”.
She was afraid that God would have abandoned her.
“I was counting the monsoons, disguising a smile. Everything looked too far away. There’s nowhere to hide in such emptiness”.
She was still a teen when she realized she was different. She started to like men and to do her makeup in a mirror.
”When I was five or six years old I used to sneak into my sister’s room trying to fit into her clothes, I used to fill her bra with a pair of socks dreaming of being a beautiful woman.
I suffered every time someone called me by my name. My adolescence was a vortex of depression and self hatred . I would have a panic attack as soon as I thought about my appearance: my shoulders, the size of my arms, my beard and my hairy chest. It was hard to live with my skin, for this reason I covered it with female clothes. This could give me relief. But, again, I felt shame and disgust. A cyclical agony. My appearance will always affect the way people interact with me”.
Then she had to face her friends, her family and, with them, the whole of society. People were teasing her about the way she talked. It took some years to figure out that she had dual sexuality. She felt more like a woman and less like a man. Despite the fact her body does not reflect his real being, she didn't get any surgery.
”I don’t want any, I’m afraid of it”.
Then she adds: “I was not born in the wrong body, I was born in my body and that's it”.
Now she’s looking at the black clouds passing outside the window.
Kakoli dreams of obtaining the visa so she can move to Kolkata, India. She says that life there is easier because the community is bigger. She dreams of traveling the whole world and working with people like her, but also of getting a real job in her own country.
Her father died when she was 12, her mother when she was 20 and since then she has lived on the street with her sisters. Currently their only way to make a living is to go into the streets, through the traffic, and beg. Sometimes she dances at weddings with her group and sometimes she goes to the places where there is a newborn baby, asking for money.
Transgenders, commonly called gender variant, transsexuals, third gender or hijras, face emotional turmoil with strong conflicting feelings. It can be psychologically and physically traumatic; there's body-altering hormone treatment, often followed by operations to reassign sexual organs in a process known as "feminization”.
They constitute a marginalised section of society, facing legal, social and economic difficulties. Shunned by family and society alike, they also have restricted access to education, health services and public spaces, and with no rights for social and cultural life. Harassment, violence, denial of services and unfair treatment replace their basic civil rights.
The Supreme Court recently handed down a landmark ruling for hijras and other transgender by recognizing a third gender under the law that is neither male nor female. However, they still protect themselves behind the veil, in that side of the darkness.