This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Mrinalini Ray. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘My Wife Thinks I Am Gay And I Let Her Believe That, Because The Arrangement Works’

TinderEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #AllTypesAllSwipes, by Tinder and Youth Ki Awaaz to celebrate Transgender Awareness Week. Tinder now supports more ways to express gender identity by giving users the ability to add information about their gender outside the binary. Share your experiences of love, dating and authenticity here.

Vikas, also known as ‘Whiskey’ in the hijra community, is 26 years old. I noticed that all my respondents would refer to themselves by their female name that was assigned to them after joining the community but would hesitate to tell me the name they had before.

On asking why, some of them explained that referring to their previous life was seen negatively within the community and therefore, they did not want to be caught recalling their former identity. Some seemed uncomfortable when I asked them what their former name was and some even stopped me from writing them down as they did not want to leave any evidence of having revealed their former identity, fearing a negative response in case any senior member of the hijra community found out.

When I first met Whiskey, she was in male clothes, had short hair and wore dull colors. However, when I met her at a wedding a few weeks later, at the wedding of an NGO member’s brother, I could barely recognize her. It was in the peak summer month of June. I was invited, as were many others who were associated with the NGO. Even though I went to the wedding as a guest, I couldn’t help but make observations as a researcher while I was there. It was an opportunity to witness a social gathering where the respondents too, were invited as guests, rather than as members of the community who would otherwise attend the wedding to perform toli-badhai and bless the occasion.

Whiskey looked more beautiful than any woman present there and stood out amongst the crowd. People could barely keep their eyes off her. She was glowing and her smile was radiant. Her make-up was flawless and her clothes, bright pink, were designed by herself. She wore a long wig on her head. She would frequently sway her long braid from one side to the other and if she caught someone looking at her, she would blush, making her cheeks look as pink as her dress.

My family is aware of my female characteristics, but they are in denial about my identity. They force me to behave like a ‘man’ at home. I had left home for a few months after my brother humiliated me in front of my entire family, pointing out the way I walk, talk and behave. We had got into some fight. My brother always condemned my behaviour and said that it was not suitable and that it brought shame to the family.

I decided to live on my own. That time I didn’t know much and I was apprehensive about finding a guru because I had heard that some of them are very mean. My kothi friends told me these things so I got scared. But 2 years ago, I found myself a guru because I found out that was the only legitimate way to enter the hijra community. Without a guru, a hijra cannot have an identity.

Just the way a woman can only have an identity after she gets married, we too can only have a hijra identity if we become a chela to a guru.

A while back, my mother fell really sick and appealed to me by emotionally blackmailing me to return home. I was scared that my mother’s condition would worsen if I cause her any stress. That is why I decided to move back home and now I am forced to lead a dual life. My parents insisted that I got married. There was no choice. My family told me that I was free to behave however I liked outside the house as long as I stayed with my wife and behaved like a man at home.

My wife thinks I am gay and I let her believe that, because the arrangement works. I think I am lucky to have a wife who accepts my feminine behaviour but I am scared that she won’t be able to handle the truth of me being a hijra. That is why I can’t tell her. You see, I am a father too.

My wife accepts me and my behavior on the condition that I take care of her and our child. We live like friends and I have sex with her as well. See, sex is sex. It doesn’t have anything to do with love. I love her as a friend. But I have rented a room where I can dress up like a woman and then I join the other hijras to do toli badhai so that I can earn. I get out of my house wearing men’s clothing and under the pretense of going to college, I actually go to my room to transform into a woman and be a part of the hijra community. Plus, this is the only way I get to meet my boyfriend. I meet him at that room and we have a great time, but then I have to return home.

We had this conversation in the NGO office and soon after, he also took me to his place. Before we entered his home, I was warned that I must not mention anything to his family. I went there pretending to be an employee of the NGO. I met his entire family, including his wife and child. The wife performed her wifely duties, served him food and spoke about her ‘good’ husband. After the meeting, Vikas left with me to go to his room, where he was supposed to meet his boyfriend.

This reveals a crucial aspect of duality as a mode of engaging with relationships of love. It is by fulfilling the role of a ‘man’ at home and through his marriage that Vikas is able to love the one he truly wants. Vikas readily accepts the duality of his identity as a gay man and a husband so that he is able to negotiate his space, outside the home, to find the love of his choice. If the wife finds out that he is a hijra, he believes that her belief in his ability to take care of her and her child will be challenged, as he will no longer be considered a man.

The family also uses contexts such as sickness, ill health to draw the person back into the fold of the family. There are families which use shunning, isolation and emotional blackmail to draw them back into the fold of the family but this drawing within the fold of the family has two aspects. One in which they can only come back to the family if they retain a conventional normative masculine identity, and the other, in which the masculine identity can be temporary and fragmented, wherein there is an understanding about it which implies that there is an acceptance of the femininity, as long as the feminine characteristics and qualities are not visibilised in their family life.

There are many hijras who accept this dual existence. This duality, in fact, is often used as a negotiation strategy so as to be able to be a hijra outside the household where there are no restrictions on the individual’s identity and also to be able to find love.

The dual existence is that they are married men within their family and hijras outside, while the other aspect of their duality is that they negotiate masculinity and femininity, and there is a recognition of this fluidity. Therefore, there is an acceptance of the fluidity in the ‘doing’ of gender, by the family. For this person, that duality and fluidity becomes a part of their identity such that they are able to define what the masculinity and femininity means to them at different points of time in their everyday lives.

This acceptance and recognition of his fluid identity, especially by the family, retains Vikas’ support structure. Therefore, while Vikas retains his family structure and fulfills the role of a husband and father, it is also a negotiation that allows him to find a partner of his choice, outside the fold of the family. The retention of family ties as well as having the freedom to be themselves outside of the household are some of the factors that necessitate this duality in the practice of gender by the hijra.

This piece is an extract from the author’s Master’s thesis at Tata Institute of Social Sciences titled ‘Hijra Lives: Negotiating Social Exclusion Identities’.

You must be to comment.

More from Mrinalini Ray

Similar Posts

By Suman Mitra

By Pooja Shrivastava

By Shambhavi Saxena

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below