'Every step is a fight'- the transgender community speaks on why they leave school.

Urmila Chanam
Posted May 11, 2013 from India
Every step is a fight for space, dignity, access to health services and education for the transgender
Every step is a fight for space, dignity, access to health services and education for the transgender
Every step is a fight for space, dignity, access to health services and education for the transgender (1/5)

"Every step is a fight Every breath a small victory A sheet of paper a milestone A pay slip, a dream that was feared to never come true."

Nayana is a male born transgender who has found her foot among the working class of Bangalore.Her message of hope, survival and success is an inspiration for people from her community, and for anyone who knows what it feels to be not accepted in a country that just likes to acknowledge two genders.

Nayana sits across me on the faded carpet in her office and recounts-

"I had the hardest time when I was growing up, discovering who I was and my family was distraught with that, especially my father.

At 22, I chose to undergo ‘castration’, a traumatic physical experience ,but that which gave me the ‘body I had always craved for’, that of a woman.

Taking a course in software programming , investing all my money in it , was the best decision of my life. Today I work as a community member in an NGO besides having a choice of finding work in Information Technology.

I chose to fight for my space, and here I am!

I know why transgender drop-out of school. I have known it in my own life. The boys tell us, don’t come here. The girls say don’t come here. In the way we are pushed out in every possible sense, dropping out of school is the most natural outcome. Where will we go??

I am sure many people do not realize that the way you treat us like dirtier-than-dirt affects our life decisions, we stop to go to school , we bid good bye to getting education, Though we know education is important, but our dignity is important as well.

I was one of the lucky ones to get to continue my education, in bits and pieces, with many disruptions in between that came from social pressure of being a transgender.

It’s a very complex environment we live and work in. While guarding our own rights and dignity at every step, sometimes depression sets in. It gets accentuated by the loneliness of not having family close to you.

We are being issued a gender certificate from the Government of Karnataka that allows us to say, I am a transgender. This has come about after years of struggling for our own identity.

It feels like victory now."

In the two hours I talked to Nayana in her office I found a powerful leader in her and a role model for her community. She has led her life with conviction, pursuing education and working to support herself in a culture which dismisses their very existence.

We would have to begin with our schools. We would have to make a new line , one that stands in between the all boys and all girls lines.That is education. That is empowerment.

For now, Shine Nayana Shine.

Urmila Chanam Activist & Journalist India

Girls Transform the World 2013

Comments 13

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Sutanuka Banerjee
May 11, 2013
May 11, 2013

Nice to hear how she is not intimidated in claiming basic rights where transgenders and transsexuals are taboos. Hope the society gives all a warm place to live in.

very inspiring post indeed. Loved your definition of true education which does not lie between the dividing line of two genders.

Regards,

Sutanuka

Urmila Chanam
May 11, 2013
May 11, 2013

Dear Sutanuka,

You know, in the cities and metros like Bangalore, I have seen people being more tolerant towards transgenders and other sexual minority groups but if you scratch the surface, we still do not let them in our life, professionally and personally. So where is the progress.

Thanks for your thoughts and for your words.

Love and hugs, Urmila Chanam, Bangalore

Wendy Stebbins
May 11, 2013
May 11, 2013

Wow! Urmila, this is a courageous and necessary article, you feisty young lady. I hope you will write more on it to make us aware. Most of us are not. But if it is in our face more we will all remember to begin the journey of helping with this. I know in Zambia, a doctor and many others have told me that NO MEN are gay. No such thing. Of course, it is illegal to be gay. And I KNOW many many are gay and probably lesbians too. So sad. To have to hide behind your true soul.

But keep us thinking Urmila, as you always do. And things will begin to change.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy

P.S. Thank you personally Urmila for all your help to me, for being there for me. I am working on getting skype and will let you know. Love ya, girl.

Urmila Chanam
May 11, 2013
May 11, 2013

Dear Wendy,

This is most interesting to have you say that in Zambia, the value propagated is- There are no gays in Zambia! Few days back, I was hosting a Kenyan delegation of top government officials and program implementers and one of them raised this topic. She said that they are not aware if gays, eunuchs or transgenders are there in Kenya or not, and if they are there, how many are they, is something they have never thought of.

This denial of a huge segment of our society makes sure these people lead MISERABLE lives!!!!

I am so glad you enjoyed reading Naina's account and I will personally carry this to her the next time I meet her.

I am always there for you Wendy. Kindly get a Skype soon and have our first conversation. I have so much to share :)

Love and hugs, Always in my prayers, Urmila Chanam India

Wendy Stebbins
May 16, 2013
May 16, 2013

Hi Urmilla,

Loved the pictures of your mom, dad and you. You play golf ! I used to. Great game to teach focus, humility and patience, wouldn't you say?

Love,

Wendy

Did you see that 14 year old Japanese kid who made it into the Master's. Really something.

Urmila Chanam
May 23, 2013
May 23, 2013

Dear Wendy,

I am no golfer myself but I find myself around it most times as my dad and brother are great players! I have not read about the Japanese kid, send me the link if possible.

I am doing good but busy at work. Hope to catch up on weekend here.

Love Urmila Chanam

Debbie Andres
May 15, 2013
May 15, 2013

Thank you for telling Naina's story Urmila! What a courageous life she has led! To stand tall in the face of all the discrimination she's had to endure speaks volumes about her character! Her community is very lucky to have her to speak up and guide them into a new way of thinking-- one that acknowledges EVERYONE equally, where nobody has to hide who they truly are!

Urmila Chanam
May 15, 2013
May 15, 2013

Dear Turtledove,

I agree with every little thing you have said about Naina!! It is incomprehensible for an ordinary person to realize what stigma and discrimination can do in one's life. What is the saddest part is, many such Nainas continue to live in a disguise, concealing their true identity out of familial pressure and societal expectation.

A life led on the terms of other people, is no life at all.

Thank you for your thought and your appreciation of Naina. I will carry them to her when I meet her next.

Love and warm wishes Urmila Chanam India

Lea
May 21, 2013
May 21, 2013

Dear Urmila,

Thank you very much for telling Naina's story. Sadly, stories like hers are not often shared for fear that they will scare people. She has shown tremendous courage in not letting anyone dictate how she should live her life. She stood tall and never gave up in the face of hostility and discrimination. It's really wonderful that you gave her a voice and highlighted her accomplishments, i.e., becoming a leader and role model in her community. I wish there could be more people like Naina who want to create an environment where everyone is accepted, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion....She's truly making a difference! Thank you again for this inspiring story!

Urmila Chanam
May 21, 2013
May 21, 2013

Dear Lea,

Let me tell you about the joy I feel that you, and women around the world are not scared of 'Naina' and her friends and wish her to be successful and lead a fulfilling life. I always thought in my quiet moments, how many people really love them and I was clueless. Now I know there are people who would given them a chance- EVERYONE DESERVES A CHANCE!!!

In accepting let us create an enabling environment for them. Let them keep away their veil, embrace their sexuality and live freely.

Thank you again for your love.

Hugs, Urmila Chanam India

Irmia Fitriyah
May 23, 2013
May 23, 2013

Hi Urmila:

Your article really moved me. Transgender is often invisible. In my country, it's very hard for them to access an ID Card because state does not define their gender.

Mia

Urmila Chanam
May 23, 2013
May 23, 2013

Dear Mia,

I am going through a nightmare applying for my passport. There are so many documents of proof authorities ask you for. it's endless. I faced more trouble than others because I didn't have a voter's ID card. I have moved all my life and never stayed longer than 2 years anywhere. The trouble I have gone through because of this document is nothing short of a nightmare.

I think to sit the plight of our third gender and how they must live without documents of identification????

It's tough and it must be a nightmare

I value you- you have compassion.Keep in touch :)

Love and prayers Urmila Chanam India

Yvette Warren
Jun 14, 2013
Jun 14, 2013

I wonder why we still define ourselves by the organs in and on our bodies. When we value all the talents of all the people on earth, we will hopefully, all become comfortable in our own skins.

I have many traits that are more common in men in my country, for which I have always been (and am) persecuted. I am also a strong mother and grandmother because I was born with female parts. I am simply a strong person, no matter what parts my body was born with.