Story of a Hijra Transwoman and an Entrepreneur


Excerpt from “
From Isolation to Liberation by Govind K. Bansal & Shibu John, Indian Journal of Gender Studies

I am Abhina, preferred pronouns: her, she; born as Abhijeet in 1977 to a Maharashtrian family in Mumbai, then Bombay. Well, this was the year of my biological birth; in reality, I was reborn at the age of 22 when I discovered myself. Unfortunately to have lost my father at the tender age of 3 years, I was basically a single child. My mother raised me all by herself. She used to have a white-collar job at that time, and we resided in a service quarter in the City of Dreams, amchi Mumbai. As a girl born in the body of a boy, my childhood seldom had any happy moments, and of course, in early adolescence and adulthood, the challenges kept becoming bigger and bigger.

My childhood was blessed with the gift of rhythm, with my mother being a classical dancer and my father being an instrument player. As the 7-year-old Abhijeet, I used to harbour dreams of being an artist—a dancer. Unknowingly, my mother had been my dancing coach. I got used to coming home to her doing dance performances and, hiding from her eye, I used to copy her exactly, like Eklavya learnt archery. I also used to cross-dress. However, being born biologically as a male, me being the Madhuri Dixit of my locality, was a thought my mother could never fathom and, hence, condemned.

There was an instance one day when my mother ‘caught’ me cross-dressed with make-up on, dancing in front of everyone; she was aghast. She was troubled—seeing something out of the ordinary—and her response was to punish me. Through her tears—which my young, innocent mind could never understand the reason for—she told me to swear to God 1,000 times that I would never cross-dress or dance again. ‘Bhagwan ke samne baith ja, hazar baar likh ki, kabhi aisa nahi karega (swear to God thousand times that you will not repeat this)’. But who would tell her that it was God who had made me this way? Her agony made me realize that I had hurt my mother deeply by being something/someone that I should not be. This was the only thing I knew that mattered. The desire not to cause her any pain was extreme, and I have always been subconsciously aware of it.

For a child with a single mother, with almost no freedom to express himself, school is the one place he can find some solace, perhaps in academics or in friends. At home, I had to shackle my unrealized true identity, with my mother failing to recognize or just not acknowledging the early signs of variance or gender dysphoria in me. And then, the school became the ‘ground zero’ for discrimination against me. I was enrolled in Maharashtrian Brahmin School and generally used to sit with girls. There were clear demarcations between boys sitting with boys and girls sitting with girls, so my being friends with girls was bothersome for the boys and became a reason for constant ridicule. As we started edging towards puberty, the girls in my class started blooming with apparent signs of it. As their bodies changed more and more, the feelings of insecurity and unfamiliarity grappled me since I was not ‘developing’ in the same way. My young self wanted to be a pretty girl, too. I wanted people to appreciate me, too. I always kept seeking love, some form of validation, anything, but it was not there.

Around the age of 11–12 years, people, especially my neighbourhood, started realizing the change. My deviation from the norm became very apparent to them. They manipulated and forced my mother into thinking that ‘because this person does not have a father, that’s why he is like that’. For the sake of introducing a father figure in my life, my mother remarried. However, the second marriage did not last for long as that person was already married and had two children—a whole other family. This effort to fill the void left by my father’s untimely demise, rather than bringing us and especially me comfort, was traumatizing for our family, albeit, the whole remarriage fiasco had a ‘silver lining,’ developing my bond with my mother more strongly than it ever was.

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