By Shambhavi Saxena:
Almost everyone has complaints with their parents’ prying and hiding their electronics in an attempt to get them to study for an hour or two. But what happened with Shivy Bhatt, an 18 year old trans-masculine Indian citizen who had been residing in the US for most of his life, is nothing but domestic abuse and human rights violations.
While still living in California and attending university there, the first rift between Shivy and his parents followed his decision to cut his hair short. Shivy has described his parents, and especially his mother, as having a conservative outlook, which has led them to be physically and verbally abusive toward him. When his mother confiscated his phone and found out about his gender identity and girlfriend, Shivy’s life and safety was immediately in danger.
After moving out of his abusive home, and continuing his studies as a neurobiology major, Shivy thought he was in the clear, until his mother conned him into visiting his grandparents’ home in Agra, where he was immediately put in lockdown, with his identification papers withheld from him, forced to attend a local university, and subjected to physical violence. In an appeal on YouTube, he said, “My time in Agra would ‘fix’ me.”
For too many the struggle can seem pointless, but for Shivy, it was about self-preservation. Seizing the first chance he had, he contacted friends in the US for help, and was directed to the queer feminist organization, Nazariya. With the help of LGBT activists, he was able to escape the veritable hellhole his family had created for him. This gave him the chance to move the Delhi High Court, which proved very favourable. Justice Siddharth Mridul ordered police protection for the young trans student, saying: “How is it that we are so quick to pass judgement on a sexual orientation that may not be our own? This is nothing but bigotry and this has no place in India, which is a tolerant country.”
But this tolerance is hard to find in India. Even as Manabi Bandhyopadhyaya becomes the first trans principle in India, trans filmmaker Joe Paul is refused a flat in Mumbai because of her identity. Even though ground-breaking court rulings grant trans persons long-fought-for rights, there are thousands of Shivy Bhatts in India and abroad who need our support.
While Shivy may no longer be in the suffocating atmosphere of his grandparents’ home where his movements were constantly monitored, the problem is far from over. Shivy’s father and the Uttar Pradesh Police have been relentless in their abuse, now targeting the activists who helped him escape to New Delhi. At 18, Shivy is legally a major, and still his family has filed a kidnapping case with the UP police in order to have him returned to their cruel regime.
Justice Mridul’s comments are heartening but are not reflective of any great change in the way people worship the gender-binary as the foundation of all life on earth. The family institution has wielded unbelievably cruel control over gender-non-conforming people, who, like Shivy are just trying to live their lives, and it must be hauled up for its excesses.