“A wonderful day to spend among women in leadership” said Rashmi Karthik an attendee of Women #BreakingBarriers Bangalore. Breaking Barriers is now coming to Pune, Panjim, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Chennai. Register now to attend!
It made me realize that the trials and tribulations of a transgender person aren’t different at all. And that a transgender person’s world and life isn’t much different from my own.
‘Books are like this magical window that you can open no matter where you are and you fall into a different place that’s better than the one you’re trapped in.’
This line from Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars perfectly sums up my experience of reading the book. For it truly was a magical world that came alive for me – a world where fierce female warriors wage a battle for love and rid the world of violence.
The story is a first-person fictionalized account of a transgender woman’s life and struggles, and it offers a deeply personal insight into the fight for freedom against pain, suffering, and oppression of transgender people.
And while one may or may not have experienced the same gender dysphoria, the sentiments and struggles of any individual wanting to establish their identity are similar. The never-ending doubts, the simmering anger, the desire to run away to a safer place, the desperate need to be allowed to express and exist without restrictions, ridicule, and judgement was exactly the same.
The character, a young city girl, has her share of challenges that are not very different from a real-life person’s. The relatability is what made the story and character more endearing.
To add to that, the exquisite writing made it an absolute pleasure to read. The sometimes outrageously funny, sometimes heartbreakingly dark narrative keeps you hooked for hours together. Some of the lines that stayed with me were:
‘Beneath the night sky, the water looks like melted glass.’
What was most striking for me was how the character’s opinions seemed to be mirroring that of my own, and I am sure many others. The book resonated my sentiments of being in constant fear – a feeling not alien to most women.
‘We are always in danger, no matter where we go.’
It reminded me of how sometimes one isn’t safe even inside the confines of our house, or how women are often at the losing end of a fight – for no matter, what you do or say, women are always victimised, shamed, and blamed.
‘Little tin box apartment, I know you aren’t strong enough; not to keep me inside, not to keep the monsters out.’
‘Whether we fight back or not, someone will always be trying to kill us.’
It spoke of the same things I did when asked about why, as a feminist, I was so vocal and angry.
‘The question is, what are we going to do about it? Cower and wait for them to keep on picking us off one by one? Or make them more afraid of us than we are of them?’
How I wish I could go around town, painting graffiti on the walls that said, ‘You mess with femmes, you mess with us’, just to intimidate the offenders into refraining committing any more crimes against women. The vigilantism element in this story is strong, and to some extent a reminder of how that may be the only solution in real life, too. (Except that, it isn’t really!)
‘I hear that you are angry. I hear that you are scared. But we cannot afford to stoop to the level of our oppressors for one thing, violence only begets violence. We are better than that. We are stronger than that.’
The similarities didn’t just end there. The ‘I don’t give a shit how big your boobs are. I am just as much a woman as you’ line was a lot similar to what I want to tell misogynists: I don’t give a shit what your ideas of womanhood are. I am just as much a person as you.
My belief that all women, irrespective of where they are, have the same stories was reflected in the lines, ‘All the girls on the Street think they’re so unique, but the truth is, we all come from the same story, more or less.’
Each of us needs a place that’s our own sanctuary. And there is no better definition of the word that I found than the one given in this book – ‘a sanctuary is a place where the door only locks from the inside.’
It is for this reason that I feel women should band together and stand up for each other, so that the sisterhood remains strong and we can provide the love and support to one another. And again, I found something similar in the book.
‘It feels like sisterhood. It feels like open arms. It feels like home.’
On presenting a steely facade that is visible to the world even as a fearsome fight against self-doubts and insecurities rages on within, I felt the character said it better than I could.
‘I look up, gazing around the room with eyes that say, “I’m as fierce and fabulous as anyone here, and I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks.”
And I think everyone buys it except for me.’
The author very deftly explores several themes that are extremely relevant to feminism and the fight against patriarchy – violence against women, mental health, need for consent, and my favourite, women empowering women – without losing the thread of the plot or the flow of the character’s journey.
It was easy for me to establish an instant connect with the protagonist even though her life was starkly different from mine. The poems and the letter that offer a deeper insight into the protagonist’s mind are a wonderful addition for they helped me understand the mental anguish a transgender person goes through; not just in terms of exploring their own feelings, but also, social acceptance.
The book changed my understanding of the transgender world and not in the sense that I had expected. For it made me realize that the trials and tribulations of a transgender person aren’t different at all. And that a transgender person’s world and life isn’t much different from my own. All they crave for is love and acceptance – just as we all do.
Is it too much to ask for? Is it right that we’re so stingy with some thing as basic? What is it we can do to make their life better? Can we, in our own way, become Lipstick Lacerators?
But more than that, I want to say to every transgender person: ‘you’re worth holding on to.’
Image source: a still from The Danish Girl
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Piyusha is a sometime sane reader, part-time crazy writer and full-time wacky alien.
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