ANURADHA KRISHNAN: THE IRREPRESSIBLE
“If someone hates you for being you, it’s not your fault, it’s their ignorance. Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are!” ❤
Could you take a pause right here and introspect all the challenges and obstacles you are dealing with in life? Plenty right? We all do. Everyone’s not in the same boat but no one’s not without problems. But for a majority of us, the cisgender, an antonym for the transgender may have never realised what one goes through when trying to discover one’s own identity and fighting everyday to protect it, to get its fair share of dignity that everyone deserves as a human being.
Meet Anuradha Krishnan, 25, from Rackad, Kerala, a queer rights activist, founder of Queerythm, a final year dentistry student, an aspiring civil servant and a trans-woman who fought her battles, both within her and outside with the world. She came out proud to own her identity, for who she always was and will be!
Excerpts from my interview with Anuradha:
A CHILDHOOD OF ABUSE AND TRAUMA
My earliest memories as a child was just wanting to express as a girl and couldn’t really relate to the masculinity of my body. I was quite fascinated with my mom’s sarees and my sister’s frocks while growing up. I used to feel more comfortable around my female cousins and teachers.
“There was an inbuilt insecurity and inhibition around my male cousins and classmates. They didn’t make it easy for me either as I faced a lot of harassment and bullying for being the way I was.”
As I grew older, the torment aggravated. I was started to being called out for being effeminate and was even advised to speak and behave in a certain way associated with masculinity of a male identified person.
“I was frequently sexually and verbally abused and addressed with derogatory Malayalam words like ‘chhakka’, ‘kundan’ and ‘chanthupottu’. In class 8th, I even attempted suicide. I still deal with that trauma of my growing up years.”
I started limiting my freedom and confined myself to my home not wanting to go out. I even tried my best to suppress my feminine expression and act masculine to appear ‘normal’ to others.
I shared my feelings with my sister who is 7 years older to me and like a second mother. While she was protective of me and even gave it back to those who abused me, but she herself was confused and ignorant about my desire to express as a woman and advised me to behave like a boy.
While my parents chose not to have any discussion on the topic, my grand parents tried to calm me down by calling it just a phase that shall pass soon. My family has accepted the situation now with reluctance.
FROM VILLAGE TO THE BIG CITY
I buried myself completely in studies and moved to Thiruvananthapuram to pursue a degree in medicine and become a dentist. However I wasn’t really interested in medicine, I have been keen on joining politics.
But if I had the opportunity to choose a profession, I would be a chef but my parents were not happy about it. When one belongs to a marginalised community specially transgender, until we build a stable career for ourselves, we receive no respect and dignity in society, hence I chose to become a dentist.
“The cisgender accepts a non-binary only if they have an extraordinary quality or have achieved something in their career, not someone who may be a sex worker. That recognition is fake and unfair.”
Transgender do not need to prove anything by their profession. Each individual should be accepted regardless of their caste, colour, profession or identity.
My college life in a big city was no better than my school back in my village. I didn’t feel comfortable. I could sense my batchmates discussing about me behind my back. They were prejudiced and had inhibitions to talk to me. I felt very lonely. I left my college hostel within a month and started living on rent.
A TURBULENT COMING OUT
“Before I came out, I used to write on social media as a supporter of the LGBTQIA community. It gave me a lot of confidence, though I was still confused on whether what I was experiencing was real, an illusion or a mental disorder.”
Eventually my transition as a trans-woman and coming out was very organic. Reading more about our community and meeting people similar to me helped a lot. My initial thoughts were that I was gay but soon realised I was a trans-woman.
“I realised I am not an aberration or a fault. I started accepting myself for who I really am. Gradually I gained the strength to declare my identity at 19.”
Everyone behaved as if they were shocked, however that reaction was fake. They already knew it, they just didn’t want to accept me the way I was. They still kept on asking me to behave like a man, in accordance to my body not what I felt within.
Though my family supported me financially to complete my studies, they felt helpless.
“I severely struggled mentally. I was fighting depression and anxiety. I dropped out of college in my 3rd year and attempted suicide again.”
Thankfully I had friends from the queer community who supported me during that time and I took psychiatric help which gave me relief.
After about 7 months, I resumed my studies but I am still on medicines which have now become a part of my life.
CARVING HER OWN PATH AND OWNING HER IDENTITY
“In 2016 I founded Queerythm unofficially and registered it in 2017 as a platform for a monthly gathering of the LGBTQIA community. It serves as a space where one can talk, share and listen without prejudice and inhibition.”
Queerythm has almost 400 members in Kerala from different queer communities. We are involved in a lot of welfare activities which includes 24/7 crisis helpline, shelter for trans-men, college campus queer festivals and sensitising programs. We were also part of the continuing education program for transgender under the State Literacy Mission by the government of Kerala.
We’ve had the annual Queerythm pride parade in Thiruvananthapuram 3 years in a row since 2018 and also helped organise the Kerala pride 2018.
Pride parade 2019 in Thiruvananthapuram
LOOKING AHEAD: FIGHTING FOR HER COMMUNITY
“I am preparing for the UPSC exams. Though politics is what I am interested in but for a trans-woman to become a politician isn’t simple. For that we will need people’s support in majority which is missing due to stigma attached to our community. But to become a bureaucrat, one can achieve it on merit.”
As a civil servant, I would like to be able to make our policies more inclusive for the LGBTQIA community.
Every policy is drafted or executed from a binary lens, it is completely cisgender focussed. For example education is for boys and girls. There is no mention of gender non-conforming children.
“In a 2018 survey under the Kerala State Literacy Mission, 60% transgender people dropped out after 9th standard due to harassment and 50% of them survive on a monthly salary of less than Rs 1000.”
Sensitising towards the LGBTQIA community needs to take place at the grassroot level starting from school at a very young age. Both students and teachers need to be made aware of the community, be more inclusive and shun the stigma attached to them.
“Why did NCERT pull down the transgender inclusion training manual for teachers from its website? It’s because politicians are only looking for a vote bank! They do not consider the marginalised community, only concerned about the majority population for their vested interest.”
WINDS OF CHANGE?
The landmark Supreme Court judgement in 2014 recognising transgender people as the third gender was the ground for change. Our community has been oppressed, used and tormented since centuries, so change will not happen overnight but we’re fighting.
“When we talk about discrimination against other minorities in the country based on their caste or religion, at least they have their families for support. The transgender community are abandoned even by their own families and are forced to beg or become a sex worker.”
Apart from sensitising teachers and students on children with non-binary identity and making them feel comfortable enough to finish their education, government should draw policies that will help the transgender community like job reservation or age relaxation for certain positions in the government.
“OBC reservation for the entire trans community in India is injustice to us. It only helps the upper cast trans people not the Dalit Adivasi and other minority trans community. Government should consider the intersectionality of transgender people and provide horizontal reservation.”
We need powerful policies that need to be executed to uplift the transgender community. The government is taking no initiative to create awareness. It is thanks to our powerful judiciary that certain positive changes have been put in place.
What most Indian corporates do is also ‘screen washing’. They only write words of support on their social media and put pictures with the pride colours during the pride month. Where are they rest of the year and what support do they offer?
It’s only a handful of international organisations that truly have policies for the LGBTQIA community.
“Even take for example, the film industry where actors have been lauded and even won awards for their portrayal of a transgender character but why are they almost always played by the cisgender? Why not give a chance to a talent from the transgender community itself? This is denial of opportunity. It is as paradoxical as a white man acting with a black paint.”
WORDS OF WISDOM AND STRENGTH
No matter what you identify yourself as, just accept yourself. I know well that it’s not a easy, a lot of negative thoughts creep in, there are people who shatter your confidence but at the end of the day we need to take our own decision. No other person should take a decision on our behalf.
Never compromise on your identity for anyone and for anything. We are all unique and we should believe in ourselves.
“We are the warriors and the leaders of our own life. No one else can lead us. If we have self acceptance, we can build our life so respect your identify.”
“We have the ability to do wonders too and contribute to the development of our nation. For that we need equal opportunities in a just, equitable and inclusive society with a life of dignity without judgements or inhibitions.”
Anuradha’s fight for justice continues while she dabbles multiple roles as queer rights activist through her foundation Queerythm, a final year dentistry student, an aspiring civil servant and a cook who loves to dish out recipes at home!
Anuradha hopes to under go a sex reassignment operation when she’s financially independent. Look out for more updates and thoughts from Anuradha on her LinkedIn profile.