It’s never easy being different from the narrow constraints of what is considered “normal”. Gender roles are so strictly, inflexibly assigned that even the slightest deviation from the norm is considered wrong. We force people to live outside their skins, be someone they’re not, and if they insist on breaking out of the shackles society puts around them, we shun them. Strange, that! The transgender/transsexual community in India is a case in point. Relegated to the very outskirts of society, trans people barely manage to eke out a living. 22 year-old Sneha had to run away from home because her family would only accept her if she lived the life her male anatomy dictated. Neharika tried to kill herself at the age of 17, because she couldn’t come to terms with the fact that she felt like a girl trapped in a man’s body. The story of Khwaish Parihar is that rare story that gives me hope that one day people will be allowed to be everything they are and anything they want to be. Hope that there will come a day when a person’s happiness will be the only thing that matters. That someday, someday soon maybe, we will learn to live and let live. Khwaish is a 26 year-old transsexual who went through her own personal version of hell to live the life she’d always dreamed of. Born Satyajeet, the son of a middle class family in a small town, Khwaish, like so many others, had to run away from home in order to live the life she wanted.
Growing up, Satyajeet was always drawn to things one traditionally associates with girls — cooking, makeup, dressing up in women’s clothing and such. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine what a traumatic childhood Satyajeet must’ve had, or the many horrible things people must’ve said to this child who refused to behave like a boy.
After a turbulent childhood, Satyajeet ran away from home shortly after taking the Class 10 exams. He had taught himself some basic beauty techniques over the years that helped him work as a beautician and support himself. Having already gotten laser treatment to get rid of his facial hair, Satyajeet was finally on the path to becoming the woman he always wanted to be.
She picked the name Khwaish, which quite literally means wish/hope. Khwaish Parihar underwent extensive treatment and surgery and is now a television personality. She has also done a couple movies.
Not every transsexual is as fortunate, or as strong, as Khwaish has been. Some succumb to the relentless pressure that families and society exert upon them and end up dying — literally, or on the inside. Others run away and join others like them and live on the outskirts of society. Forced into sex work, simply because they aren’t allowed into mainstream society.
We only let them in when we celebrate something “auspicious” like a wedding or the birth of a son — giving them a taste of what it feels like to be welcomed and to belong, and then we send them packing. We’ve made life so unbearable for them that they celebrate death. They welcome it as a final freeing from the limitations that society, and their bodies, impose upon them all the days of their life. Here’s hoping more trans people find support — within their families and outside.