An excerpt from Aijaz Ahmed Bund’s book based on the transgender people in Kashmir and their experiences of life. The twenty-four interviews and ethnographic accounts carried in this book open a new window into this mythical and marginalized community in the region.
The reality of being a transgender is that, sometimes, it does not begin as a splendid epiphany, a relief, a moment of clarity. For me, it began in the chorreh chaepih [darkest part of the closet]; not quite believing that it was possible to be happy and to be transgender. Over the course of the formative years of my life, I could feel my gender kicking and scream whenever I looked in the mirror. It made demands and held me hostage: my gender wanted girl’s clothes, and my gender wanted me to live like a girl, and my gender wanted all the girly things including a boyfriend. I dissociated from it because I did not want to believe that the urge to transition was my own. It was a circus of denial, of finding new ways to invalidate my transgender identity.
It was the sweetest kind of torture, where you both desperately want and intensely despise something – a tazaad [contradiction] that I found myself repeating every time. The denial waxed and waned until it gave way to guilt. As I attempted to respect my true and real feelings, put on make-up, and stole inner wears from my cousins, the person who stared back at me in the mirror started to resemble my mother in ways that scared me. I thought about what she might think, now that this person she called her son looked more like her daughter, like the spitting image of her in her reckless teenage years. I thought about what the people I loved might think if they knew what I was doing secretly, if they knew I was—well, in their words—a “cross-dresser.” Yet, here in front of the mirror, I was all a girl, every bit of me. Yet, feeling sorry for who I am?
It sometimes feels like a run-on string of apologies –I’m sorry for being this way, I’m sorry for disappointing you, I’m sorry for your expectations, and I’m sorry for mine. When my tongue grew tired of apologies, and my heart grew tired of pretending, I tried to negotiate – I tried to find ways of being trans at a more convenient time, in a less committal way. After the denial and after the guilt, I tried bargaining – because being trans is that it’s all the stages of museebat [grief], sometimes all at once. You’re losing who you were told to be to become what you really are, and sometimes that hurts. And when you keep your queerness a secret, every “he” and every “his” and every “son” is a reminder that you are only the sum of the lies that you tell, and that you’ve all but vanished.
There is a kind of depression I never knew until meh chachih pannih zangeh [I clipped my own wings] because I was afraid of being seen. It is that sometimes we are our own destroyers, we are our own killers, we are our own mutilators – sometimes we cause ourselves more pain than anybody else, because from the time that we were young we were told, sometimes quietly and sometimes loudly, that we weren’t meant to exist this way. At first, I only knew how to hurt because I thought that people like me were supposed to hurt. When you exist in a society that tells you that who you are is galat , the violence enacted on you is justified (generally religion is justification), and at first, it feels perfectly natural nafrat karen [ to hate] yourself because you were groomed for this stage, for this act, for this spectacle. More times than I care to admit, I said to me, “You’re disgusting, you’re wrong, you’re naabkaar [worthless].
At times I sit alone and bemoan my existence; I question myself and question my creator. I mourn my transgender self-image. I lament the fact that I cannot have a family like rest of men have, I cannot have children like rest of women have. I wonder what God has made me, why has God made me at all…. “Till a particular time in my life, I tried to be a man, I tried to act the way my family wanted me to, but my zanana [feminine] soul was not in correspondence with my mardana [masculine] body. I felt too alienated. All the time my soul would remind me that it is in a wrong body. When I accepted myself, I was discriminated, alienated harassed by my family members. The society never accepted me. The street harassment that the people of my community face is not describable.
I was beaten, humiliated, harassed, and mocked. I was harassed to a level that I left my home for good. A sense of isolation and a need for social support drove me close to the Hijra community; I decided to live within a community of like-minded souls who are like me.
Aijaz Ahmad Bund has a doctorate in Social Work from Kashmir University. His areas of specialization are Armed Conflict, Violence, psychosocial rehabilitation, issues of gender and sexual minorities. He is an LGBT activist and an advocate for the rights of the transgender community in Kashmir. Aijaz is an author at GAYLAXY, a reputed magazine about gender and sexual minorities. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org