Mumbai: Freedom at midnight for trans woman Tarana Patil

Updated: Aug 15, 2019, 09:37 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty, Nimesh Dave

Exclusive: As she turned 18 on August 14, Virar trans woman, abandoned by family but embraced by friends and college, gets ready to live her truth

Mumbai: Freedom at midnight for trans woman Tarana Patil
Tarana Patil is studying arts at Shankar Narayan College of Arts and Commerce in Bhayander

"Hey Taru, chai piyegi kya?" asked Shashi Gaikwad, nibbling on cookies in the canteen of Shankar Narayan College of Arts and Commerce in Bhayander. Pat came the reply from his friend 'Taru', Tarana Patil, "Abhi nahi, mujhe murti banane dukaan jaana hai. Kaam nahi kiya toh paise kaise milenge aur ladki kaise banungi? (I need to go to the workshop to make an idol. If I don't work, how will I earn money and with no money, how will I become a girl?)".

The teenager, born Vishal Deolekar, is saving up for breast implants and looking forward to life as a legal adult. She turned 18 on August 14. For Tarana, who is a trans woman, this day was significant in more ways than one, for it finally made her eligible for a religious rite that will formally bring her into the fold of the transgender community. She will also be able to opt for breast implant surgery now.

Her college friends, who are her support system. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Her college friends, who are her support system. Pics/Nimesh Dave

A euphoric Tarana said on her birthday, "This has been the most important day of my life. Despite having a family, I have been all alone. But now, I am happy that I have people who love me and care for me. I don't have to rely on the wishes of my parents even though they never cared for me." Tarana has begun the process of transitioning and is undergoing laser hair removal on her face. Her 'guruji', transgender activist and actor Bhavika Bhavesh Patil, is bearing the cost of the procedure, which has so far come up to R24,000 for three sessions. Tarana will require around five more sessions.

She is, however, saving up for her breast implants by working at a Ganesh idol-making workshop near her college, where she designs jewellery. "I hardly get R3,000 per month from the shop, which is inadequate for making savings after excluding my daily expenditure. But I am thankful to my dada [employer] who gave me the chance to work when all other shops had shooed me away. I have decided that gradually, I will start taking up other jobs along with this one to make the money I need," she said.

Tarana is saving up for breast implants by making jewellery at a Ganesh idol workshop
Tarana is saving up for breast implants by making jewellery at a Ganesh idol workshop

Parents' favourite

As a child, life was vastly different for Tarana. Being the youngest in the family, she was the apple of her parents' eyes. Unlike her elder brother, who was into sports, Tarana preferred playing house with her female friends. Her parents didn't give it much thought back then and expected her to change her interests with time. But as she grew up, Tarana began enjoying more activities associated with women. She would often wear saris and apply makeup, just like her mother. Childhood was also the time Tarana was subjected to sexual abuse.

"There was a boy in my neighbourhood [ten years older than her] who raped me. He threatened me and said if I spoke about this to my parents, he would reveal my sexual orientation to them. Back then, I did not know about homosexuality, so this [abuse] continued for months." Then, for the next five years, she was abused by a relative whenever he found her alone. While Tarana has confided in her friends about the abusers, her mother only knows about the abusive relative.

Tarana's college ID card
Tarana's college ID card

Despite this, Tarana's troubles with her family refused to end. When she began opening up about her sexual orientation with them, around 2017, they beat her up, calling her mentally ill. They even consulted a doctor, a general practitioner, who said 'it is all in her mind,' said Tarana.

Around this time, a neighbour had begun questioning her parents about her behaviour, after which they decided to shift to Naigaon from Bhayendar. Tarana's mother was upset about having to move houses because of her and fought with her about it. During that argument, Tarana spoke to her about the abuse she'd been through and came out to her as a trans woman.

Also Read: Mumbai: Transgender couple's marriage on hold as registrar stays 'confused'

"The move helped me spread my wings as my parents were out most of the time for work, which gave me enough time to be alone. I would wear my mother's saris and bindis," said Tarana. She also befriended a few transgender women who worked near Naigaon railway station.

Meeting Guruji

In 2018, she got in touch with Patil through Facebook. Patil guided her in understanding her sexuality and became her support system. She now lives with Patil and six other trans women in Virar. Patil, who is also a part of India's first transgender music band called 6 Pack, said the first time she met Tarana, she saw herself in her. "I've been through the same struggle as Tarana. But thankfully, my parents weren't as aggressive as hers. When I met her, she was mentally drained, which broke my heart. That was the time I decided to adopt her," she said.

Also Read: Woman cop from Beed seeks leave to undergo sex change operation, wants to resume duty as a man

Speaking about meeting Tarana's parents, she said, "When I met them for the first time, they were extremely aggressive and just wanted to give her away to me as quickly as possible, which was quite heart aching." Patil also said she would try to get Tarana's breast implants done within the next six months. "Firstly, I will have to consult a doctor regarding hormonal medicines that she needs before going under the knife. She is too young now, so we have to take guidance of doctors. If everything goes as per the plan, I would get her first breast implant done within the next six months," she said.

Coming out

After meeting Patil, Tarana's confidence grew and she started participating in extra-curricular activities in college, going on to win the first prize in a talent hunt for singing 'Lag Jaa Gale' in male and female voices. After the performance, she gained the respect of other students. Despite that, the atmosphere at home remained the same. Her family started using homophobic slurs against her. "My father called me 'chhakka' and my mother, who was everything to me, stopped talking to me," said Tarana, as tears rolled down her cheeks.

She refused to let the mistreatment get the better of her. With the support of her friends and Patil, Tarana decided to start living as a trans woman in June. She shaved her beard and confessed to her parents that she is in love with a man. She also informed them that she did not want to live with them anymore as they were creating hurdles in her higher studies. She left from home with nothing in hand and moved into Patil's home in Virar, where other trans women also reside.

In the time since, her parents have handed her over to Patil through a legal agreement. With Patil's encouragement, Tarana has begun identifying herself as a woman on the college identity card, although she is yet to officially change her name. "Most of the students and staffers in the college now recognise me as Taru," she said.

A determined Tarana is now ready to own her identity. "My parents disowned me and didn't stop me even once when I left home. People laugh at me when I put on lipstick and wear jhumkas. But I am not giving up. I will undergo the surgery and study further. I may be a creation of god but this is my life and I get to decide what I want to be," she added.

Also Read: Man who abandoned wife found on Tik Tok after 3 years dating trans woman

Family says

A close relative of Tarana denied allegations of ill-treatment. "We had asked her to stay at home as a woman if she wanted to. But she wanted to stay in touch with us and the transgender community, which we refused to accept," she said. Regarding the physical abuse allegations, she said, "Ask our neighbours if we ever raised a hand on her. If you want more information, you can talk to her guruji."

Rs 24k
Amount Tarana has paid for the laser hair removal so far

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