From Sex Worker To Karnataka’s First Trans College Student: My Story

Posted by Meghna Mathur in Inspiration
September 19, 2017

By M Suman:

Until I was about four or five, I didn’t know that I wasn’t a girl. One of my earliest memories, from when I was about five years old, is of being yelled at by a class teacher for going to the toilet with girls. I was around the same age when I realised that I was different from other boys. At the age of nine, I was refused the use of clothes and cosmetics that my sister had. Mom used to tell me to be bold and walk straight like my brother, which was a torment to me.

School days was challenging. My friends bullied me for being feminine and for not playing football and cricket. I was always hanging around with girls and playing with them. My friends mocked everything that they could think of regarding gender and sexuality.

Some of my classmates and schoolmates used to abuse me sexually. It was hard, for I could not share this with my teachers or family. One day, I gathered the courage and told my teachers. But unfortunately, they were unable to understand my feelings.

I never really told my family. I never said anything about my feelings. I don’t even tell people who I meet on a day to day basis that I am transgender. The thing about trans people is, we feel very normal. It’s the ways we are.

It is only when people say that you’re not normal, that you feel that way. I’ve always been extremely feminine, and I have always felt this way. I can’t say that I ever felt like a boy. I just had to live as a boy for the first 18 years of my life.

Just like everyone else, my ideals in life are to be happy, to be respected and comfortable. These ideals are not any different from cisgender people. A lot of friends and relatives have the notion in their head that we wake up and decide to become a trans-person. I want people to know that it’s not a choice. Nothing has happened in my life to make me trans. I was born with my feminine feelings.

My mother, like most typical mothers, was worried about my career and marriage prospects. She used to take me to doctors to check if my mental health was normal. She once also took me to ‘remove a bad sprit in from my body as I was possed by a woman’s soul.’ Safe to say, it didn’t really work.

My family thought I was mentally ill. Due to this stress, I left home. Strangers who befriended me started using me sexually, but I had no option. I choose to be a sex worker for five years. Life was not easy. I got raped multiple times by goons but had nowhere to go. After three years, I had my physiotherapy and sex reassignment surgery with the help of the money I had saved.

The reality of accepting a gender variant child is a different process for every family. Some families adapt and unconditionally accept their transgender children relatively quickly, while others go through a much longer and more difficult process, and many others never reach complete acceptance of their child. Empathy, knowledge, and understanding are critical in the processes of acceptance for parents, families, and educators.

My struggle was fruitful, and the next step was to get admitted to St Joseph evening college. There, I became the state’s first transsexual student. I am now, pursuing my bachelors in Journalism, Political Science and Sociology (J.P.S) in the college in Bangalore.

I applied for admission at many places like Bangalore University, Maharani College and IGNOU but was denied admission everywhere due to my gender identity. Exactly at the same time, the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgement to treat transgender as equals, creating a third gender status. It ruled that the community was entitled to be identified with the gender of their choice.

After multiple rounds of interviews, I gained admission in the college. Unfortunately, I found that fees were too high for me to afford. Without family support, scholarship, community support or government assistance, I was lost again

Then, I decided to join the evening college so that I could take care of myself. I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to study. At the same time, community members and friends started mocking me. “At 25, why do you want to study now?”

But my goal motivated me. I wanted to become a role model for the society and change the outlook towards the community of trans-people.

After five years of sex work, I quit the profession forever. I started working at a NGOs for sexual minorities as a peer educator. I joined as part-time staff and was paid ₹5,ooo per month. I took some credit from friends and filled my admission form and fees.

On the first day of college, I was terrified and felt nervous due to the gap in the society. It took time to gel with other people. Initially, they were hesitated to talk to me, but I helped them with assignments and preparing notes.

I worked in the day and went to college in the evening. This way I could not divert my mind. My family too accepted me and invited me home. This time, they welcomed me back as a daughter and not as their son.

The teachers are accommodating, and I have made friends here. I finally feel that I’m at the right place. I had a bad past because of the kind of horrors I faced in life.

It was in 2005, and I was studying BBM in a reputed college in Bangalore when it all began. It was then that I started feeling that I was a female in a male’s body. My classmates used to imitate me even though I was good at studies. I never answered any questions asked by the teachers out of shame. Unable to cope up with the physical and mental harassment, I left studies.

When I was asked why I chose journalism, I say that journalists have the power to bring about a change in the society. People choose different tools to identify social injustices. I chose journalism. My goal and objective are to come into the mainstream and be a role model and show the society that transgender are able to be successful in life. They too can occupy the mainstream space and live their life in dignity. It made me so happy to do that, to go to that part of the success I wanted to.

I was transitioning medically and spiritually and it was one of the most important moments of my life. A lot of people from mainstream trans communities asked me, “How can you be a person of faith because even your own religious has been so horrible to trans people?”

While that’s true, it’s about what faith means to me. I leave out what some leaders and institutions do in its name. It’s almost like trans people are one-dimensional, they are just these individuals who need help.

I do hope we will change our view of what trans people look like. It’s not just something on the outside; it’s something that’s very deep spiritual.

We are created in the image of God. And I am a part of that as M Suman.

Photo Credits: Elizabeth Mani/iamin