My Secret Self: A Personal Story Of Growing Up Transgender In India

She was born a boy, but Joyce knew that something was not right - she felt like a girl in a boy's body. It was a nightmare, until she decided to be unapologetic as a transgender.

She was born a boy, but Joyce knew that something was not right – she felt like a girl in a boy’s body. It was a nightmare, until she decided to be unapologetic as a transgender.

The jinglings of anklets and beats of music would mesmerize him and generate pleasure sensations in his body. As a little boy, he used to love giving grand performances in front of his neighbours. It was all taken in a lighter vein.

Until the day his mom caught him at it when he was a little older. Joy was dressed up in his mother’s saree, sindoor, and danglers. And of course, her shining bangles which she used to wear on Karwa Chauth. She was really mad at him. She took Joy to stand in front of the deity’s image in the puja room and asked him to pledge before God that he will not to touch feminine stuff and never again act like his mother. But that precisely was Joy’s favourite pastime indeed – to copy his mother’s mannerisms.

Later, there was a gradual change in Joy’s body. He felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body, but he dared not discuss this with anyone. Joy was surrounded by insecurities. He was confused about what was happening to him and his body.

One day at school in Biology class, the teacher introduced the topics of genetic disorders, chromosomes, and reproductive organs. Then it loomed on his mind!

“Oh! I know! I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.” It was as if someone had taken his world away in a blink, and it seemed to be disappearing.

“I am a transgender”

Joy mustered his courage and finally disclosed this matter stutteringly to his parents. They were in a shock! They were not ready to agree to this fact. It was totally unacceptable to them. The world started slipping from Joy’s hands… until Joy’s mother’s heart melted to puddles. She took it up as a challenge. She decided to become her child’s pillar of strength.

She took Joy to a doctor and got him examined. It was an endless day and night for Joy’s parents, as they were worried about, society which was too judgemental…  However, after some effort, his parents bounced back with unflinching courage. They decided to fight and face the ridicule, violence, and persecution from society, and to give a life of dignity to Joy.

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The next morning, his mother spoke to Joy with a smile and with heart-warming words. She said, “Joy! Trans people are the same as everyone else. You have to make your own world, though there will be all odds and hardships. We are here with you.”

She was as good as her word about supporting Joy. She watched videos on YouTube and Googled every bit of information she could lay her hands on, about transgenders. Joy got hormone replacement therapy, went by the name of Joyce, and now proudly called herself a SHE.

Finding her path

After many years, though buffeted by the storm that almost smothered her life, Joyce found a ray of sunshine to live in this world.

“Gain knowledge, my child. Knowledge will enlighten your path.” Joyce’s mother wiped her misty eyes and wrapped her arms tightly around Joyce. “It is never too late.”

Joyce cried.

Fortunately, her school was very supportive, and so were the teachers, but this was just the beginning of a long and tortuous path to dignity. At school, they allowed Joyce to use the Nurse’s washroom so that things would run smoothly in school to cope up with the environment. Joyce adjusted to things, but bullying and isolation were still there by his fellow schoolmates, and she was now struggling a lot with being accepted.

Once, when she was at a mall with her parents, Joyce was asked to leave women’s toilet by a staff member, and told to use the restroom for the disabled, even though the lock was broken. This experience left her feeling “violated” and “stripped of her identity”, plunging her in despair. But she coped. She had to cope, even though her heart felt like screaming out, “Being transgender is not a disability, It felt like doing something wrong, like stealing! We are transgender and not thieves! It is not my fault that I am a trans…”

Gradually, girls at school got friendly with Joyce. She had a friend, Alpie, as her bench-mate, remaining friends till they finished the school. Joyce had always been an A+ student, and did very well in academics.

Growing up…

Sitting on the kitchen floor, her phone buzzed. It was Alpie.

“Hey! Chef Joyce! Let us party hard and paint the town red! Finally, we both got selected for the Hotel Management!” They went to the trendiest pub in the town – TGIF. Both of them danced like there was no tomorrow. Dressed in their swag gowns they were looking gorgeous and happy.

Alpie shouted at the top of her voice, “Cheers!” Joyce raised her glass and gulped it down in one go. “Joyce,” said Alpie, “I want to tell you that I am really blessed to have you as a friend! Just the way you are! We will always be together!”Joyce was overwhelmed. Gradually her world was getting bigger. Her dreams were floating high on the waves.

The next week the hotel management course started. Both Joyce and Alpie gave it their best shot. They kept to themselves and focussed on their studies. They came out with flying colours in the first two semesters. The third semester was attachment to various hotels.

This time Alpie and Joyce got two different hotels. They were sad at being separated. The next day Joyce started her internship at the Mariott. As she entered the massive lounge, she saw an imposing figure, Bonn. She knew him to be a coursemate at the management institute, but today he was looking very smart. Dressed in the black tuxedo of the intern Bonn was looking like a Greek god. His prominent jawline and confident smiling face attracted everyone’s attention. Joyce just couldn’t take her eyes off him. Soon they were put together in the hotel’s galley. Joyce became the chef’s assistant. Bonn was the purser. She was infatuated by Bonn. But she kept her feelings to herself and instead focussed on her profession.

Transgenders are normal people – just like you and me

Joyce was lucky indeed to get a supportive family. She battled hard to survive and get an independent identity. She was an example of what is possible when there is love and support from families, schools and communities. Thanks to them Joyce has always been a champion!

Transgenders are normal people. They eat the same food, breathe the same air and sleep just like any of us. They are not aliens! They might look scary with loud makeup, but behind all that there is a human being trying to fit into society to loved by all.

Some like Joyce- they become educated. But many of them are shunned by their families and society. They run away from home and beg on streets, collect badhai’s or become sex workers. They start following a Guru. They are devotees of Buhuchara Mata, a version of the Indian Mother Goddess.

Chef Joyce

Joyce finally completed her degree in hotel management. She stepped into the real world and would now have to struggle for her living. With a tall resume, she landed up for interviews in many companies. But due to her being a transgender she was refused every time.

After three rounds of successful interviews, Joyce was finally selected by a panel of HR managers who did not have an issue with her being a transgender.

Joyce picked up her trade very fast and started making lip-smacking food and working equally good as any other. Her fan following grew at a rapid pace. Her colleagues accepted her. She was even allowed to use the Ladies Toilet! She remembered her mother’s words – it was one step at a time – however long and difficult the path may be. Her colleagues accepted her as she was, and she felt blessed.

Of course, the path ahead was even more difficult – of finding her true love – but she was confident that one day she would be able to find her life partner. She was going to meet Bonn again and was hopeful that sparks would fly!

There is a lot of stigma attached to one’s gender identity in our country. But these bitter experiences became Joyce’s courage and motivated her to reach her goal.

Joyce was happy! She was part of the change. Gradually, society and law were changing; she could live her life on her own terms. Like any of us, Joyce was hopeful to find true love.

The fight still goes on…

If given the right opportunity transgenders might even turn out to be better than any other person performing the same job, but it is sad that they are often not included.

We should embrace their differences instead of discriminating against someone who is a little different. They are special, God made them special! So take care!

It doesn’t matter what others think about Joy/ Joyce. It is her body after all; let it be her own choice. All that she needs is love, support, and care. And like her, other transgenders in the community too.

Published here earlier.

Image source: pxhere

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