“Look at the men who crave for us. If we are desirable for lust, why not love? Aren’t we human too?” said Priya one of my friends, a trans woman. She always wanted to have a life with husband, children and a big band of in-laws. Shunned away by her own biological family because of her coming out as trans, she now lives alone struggling for a livelihood, struggling for a dignified place in the society.
For most transgender women like me, marital life is often just a dream which never becomes a reality. When a mainstream matrimonial website rejected my profile, I started my own for transgender women. In 2009, when I first launched the Thirunangai Transgender Matrimonial website, the world’s first website for trans women, with just six profiles of trans women, we were flooded with 2,000 marriage proposals. They were coming from all around the world, but mostly from India.
Hundreds of Indian men were ready to marry trans women. As asked by us in the website, many of them sent their photographs with a short bio and a little explanation about their idea of a lifelong relationship.
We received proposals from men from diverse cultural backgrounds, men who were scientists, business owners, professors, IT professionals, doctors, engineers and even astrologers, men from different religions and faiths and communities. We were so glad for the huge response we got within two weeks of website launch to marry the six transgender girls, including me.
For men who proposed, we had announced some terms and conditions through our website. We clearly stated that we will not give any kind of dowry, money, bank balances, jewels, cars or property (some of the girls didn’t even own a two wheeler then, but that’s a different story!). We also stated that the wedding has to be public and no proposals for secret marriages would be welcomed.
Our need was to be mainstreamed as women and be in a family. Many of us have been ostracized by our own biological families for being trans. We are women, so what if we are just another kind of woman? We could still give love and receive it, we still have lust for life and longings like so many other girls. More than that, we deserve the right to have a husband and a family, don’t we?
Unfortunately, most of the Indian men who proposed to us through the website wanted a secret marriage. “You see Kalki ma’am, I love and respect transgender women,” said one guy, “I am ready to marry one too, but my family will be hurt if they come to know.” Another said, “I will face problems with my business if I have an open marriage.”
From princes to paupers, all the Indian men who sent their proposals for marriage had no issues with marrying a trans woman, but they all came with their only tag – ‘Secret marriage’. After several rounds of interviews, tons of excitement and silk draped dreams to be the bahus, reality dawned on us slowly. ‘Secret marriage’, ‘Secret relationship’, ‘Secret love’, ‘Secret wife’, secret secret secret! Ah…
There were many other (un)interesting proposals too. An oily shiekh from Dubai wrote to me: “I will take you as my third wife, I will give you everything you want.” I felt so low. No amount of his oiling could lubricate and melt my heart. I didn’t want to be his mistress, no way!
An English teacher wanted to marry one of the profiled girls, Sowmya. He wrote “I have a bedridden wife and I am impotent too. I just need someone to take care of my wife and me. I can give whatever Sowmya wants.”
I was hesitant, but I needed to tell Sowmya this. I spoke to her about this proposal and she just glared at me, all red in the face. Blistering barnacles! Words came like fireworks from her. I wanted to hide under the table. Never did I speak to her about this ever again.
Many transgender women desire a married life. They believe it brings respect, peace, love and security for the rest of your life and above all a meaning to life. However we do not have legal protection for such marriages. Section 377 of IPC could be a threat to us. The transgender bill of 2016 proposed by the government does not address and acknowledge our right to marriage and adoption. These are really huge setbacks for the community. The growing acceptance in the society is a positive change, however marriage just didn’t seem to be in our cards.
Openly transgender people do not have legal protection for their marriage. Speaking of legal protection – there are two serious concerns. First, the transgender rights bill should acknowledge our right to family, marriage and adoption. Second, we are also worried about section 377 of the Indian penal code, the age-old draconian law which could criminalise our relationships. Though many of us have ‘transitioned fully’ as women, and legally have changed our gender status too, we may still be victimized and criminalised due to this law. This spills over into our relationships with other people, which is why things haven’t changed much on the love front.
There were instances when we also received countless emails for phone sex, one night stands, escort services etc. Delete, delete, delete! We were sick and tired of these situations, and eventually gulping big coffee cups of disappointment, the six of us had a final meeting. We decided we don’t need secret mangalsutras hanging on our chests. Men could manipulate us in marriage, and mangalsutras are a burden.
In one of our conversations, I told the girls “These guys who want secret marriages just don’t get it. What difference does it make for us in such relationships? It will be unfulfilling and this guy could leave us anytime and we will be left out with nothing, no one, no protection and no justice.”
Monal, who is one of the six girls who had put her profile for marriage in the website said, “Let’s roll back our
hopes and wait for that day these men change. We will open their hearts, and open their eyes. Until then we will continue to fight for our right place in the society.” We all agreed.
One of the six girls, Sowmya is no more. Unable to bear the discrimination in the society she ended her life in 2010. Eight years have gone by and the rest of us have not changed our decision of not getting married secretly.
It was only very rarely that an Indian male had the courage to publicly accept and acknowledge the romantic relationship with a trans woman, publicly giving her the status a wife. Madhuri and Jay from Mumbai, Shree and Sanjay in Kolkata are two rare examples.
It has been 2,500 days since our final meeting as members of the Thirunangai Transgender Matrimonial website. We fell in love countless times, bit the dust with disappointments, but still haven’t lost our hopes. We believe someday, we too will have a ‘prince charming moment’. Someday, a man will come into our lives, take us to his home, introduce us to his mother, and say “Ma, I love her.”
Until then, no no to men who choose cowardice over acceptance, no to their made-in-India manipulations and their mother-fearing mangalsutras. Period.