On the Path to Re-acceptance

-Pooja Pradhan

Men or women, life and things expected of you are never so simple. And it gets a bit more complicated when you are in the wrong body.

When a child is born parents have many dreams attached to their child’s life—football matches, tea parties, marriages, grandchildren, and so on. But what if your son would rather play with dolls than cars, your daughter would rather be a boy than a girl? Do you accept them for who they are or carve them out of your life?

For most of us, our gender identity is linked to the sex we are born with. I was born a female and I identify myself as a female. But transgenders, or people with Gender Dysphoria, do not identify themselves with the sex they were born with. Simply put, transgenders are those who are born male but identify themselves as a female and vice versa.

Sophie, a popular makeup artist in Nepal, was born a male, but as a child she always identified herself as a girl. Spending time dancing and playing with girls rather than spending her time roughhousing like any other rambunctious boy. Never thinking it was something wrong or something to be ashamed of until her teenage years. School was a different matter, she shares, boys would harass her, and girls would reject her, and teachers, instead of helping her cope would pick on her due to her differences. In fact, this one time, she narrates, her teacher yelled at her when she answered a question, not because she got it wrong but because she “talked like a girl”. Sushila Lama, LGBTI human rights activist and a Blue Diamond Society member, shares a similar story of rejections and avoidance amongst her peers when she craved their acceptance the most, making it extra hard for her to finish her studies.

A son who prefers to be a daughter: one would assume that their families had problems with it. Not so, says Sushila. As young boys, Sophie and Sushila expressed very feminine characteristics, which their families thought was just a phrase they would grow out of. When they told their family that they were more comfortable as women and would like to live as one, their family did not put up that much of a resistance. A major reason, Sushila points out, was because they never hid their nature from their families who had seen that they were more comfortable in a female role. And, now, Sophie reveals that her family is “proud” of her and the life she is leading. Another example of family support has to be Santosh Pant. As a public figure he had no qualms letting his child get a sex change and laying it out in the open. This is not the case with many families where reveling this can lead to being devalued and shunned as a family member.

We have an image of a man-crazy transgender woman going after any remotely attractive man. But, that’s just the opposite, discloses Sophie, “It’s often the men running after us and lying about it to their girlfriends or families.” But maintaining a relationship is difficult, says Anusha Lama, who until recently was in a relationship that ended because of her boyfriend’s lack of honesty about her with his family and friends. We often have misconceptions that if you are a transgender female (male to female) then you are only attracted to men, or if you are a transgender male (female to male) the opposite is true. But that’s not the case. According to American Psychological Association, sexual orientation has no link to gender identity. You can be transgendered straight person, gay, bisexual, or even asexual. However, studies have shown that though there can be a new exploration period in partner attraction during their transition, they are still attracted to the gender they were before their transition. Or, if you like men, you will continue to like men even after your transition.

Though we have come a long way to accepting transgendered individuals, barring judgmental people, there is still a lot more road to travel before social acceptance. The friend that greets them with open arms should not wince at the thought of having a transgendered child (as a friend of one of the girls did); landlords should not tell them, “There are no empty rooms”, just because they do not fit into the gender norms set by society. Perhaps, one day, our society will evolve enough to see a transgender person as a respectable part of a productive workforce, instead of wrongly accusing girls like Sophie of prostituting, when they are merely traveling late due to work, by the very people who have sworn on oath to uphold the law and protect the citizens of Nepal.

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