Nishtha Nishant exclusive interview: I am a transgender, I am myself now
This is a story of a physical, mental, sexual and emotional survivor who fought her way out to tell her story.
Nishtha Nishant is a trans woman who is also a researcher. In an interview with mid-day online, during the Pride March 2019, Nishant shares sensitive and controversial topics about a trans person's life.
Can you describe what your gender identity is and when did you come to realize the same?
My gender identity is that of a transgender woman and I knew about this since childhood. During my younger years, I was always dominated by my elders in the family and was raised as a boy; although, I am a woman.
Have you ever faced discrimination at your workplace due to your sexuality or gender identity?
Yes. Discrimination at work is at prime focus where at every instance, no matter how capable I am, my gender identity is dragged into the picture. There have been times when I have been told that my application was rejected for no reason other than my gender identity. There are many such instances where I have faced discrimination at work; one major instance was related to using the restroom. Despite the Supreme Court giving basic rights to transgenders such as using any restroom of their preference, the corporate world does not seem to understand that. I was not allowed to use the women's restroom. People need to be updated with the rules or laws made by the supreme court.
What are some of the struggles you have personally faced since coming out (family, friends and siblings)?
With friends or family in particular; they would use an inappropriate gender pronoun while addressing me. I was always addressed with my previous name and that is something that hurt me as I did not prefer that. On one hand, they want me to mold myself according to them, but on the other hand, I want them to adjust a bit, which they can't seem to do.
Although it was tough for my mother to accept me as a transgender woman, my brother accepted me easily. This was we would often speak about diversity and sex education. I have been vocal about the issues faced by any human beings which kept my brother well informed about the different variations in people.
Please explain the transition process and what a person goes through
A transition process is different for different individuals. It begins with gender dysphoria where a person is trying to figure out what exactly he or she could be. They enter a confused state or they take time to accept or know where they want to head.
The next phase is self-acceptance, where the person tries to accept who they are. Post that there are medical treatments with the help of which they try to affirm to the gender identity that they want to be addressed with. They go through Psychiatry counselling, psychological tests and hormonal therapies. People also opt for sex reassignment surgery which is known as SRS, however, not everyone can afford it. I believe it is up to individuals to decide who they are, not anyone else.
What are some of the misperceptions about transgender people that our society has?
The very basic thing that anyone who comes across a trans person is “Yeh banda Hijra hai” (this guy is a eunuch) which is wrong. Basically, people need to understand the eunuch is one that belongs to the hijra community and follow the 'Guru-Chela' system and have their own socio-cultural environment where they are born and brought up. Whereas, trans persons like me are privileged with facilities that our families have provided, especially education. It is because of such facilities we are able to voice our opinion in society. Quite often people misunderstand a trans person to be an Intersex individual. When I say Intersex, it means an individual who may or may not have both genitals completely or partially developed. Not every transgender person is a Hijra (eunuch), but all Hijras (eunuchs) are Transgenders, that's what people need to understand.
What are the challenges that transgenders face in a country like India?
The basic one would be misunderstanding or misconception - that has been a trend in society. There’s a lot of hatred towards transgender people. This is well noticeable in locals trains, streets where trans people are beggars or sex workers. This needs to stop and they must be given opportunities like jobs or education. Trans people are bullied, mocked and laughed at in employment sectors.
How difficult is it for a Trans person to find a life partner?
It is not very easy to find a partner in India because not everyone is loyal. Trans people are always looked with an aspect of exploring their bodies. There is a lot of lust in people’s eyes. When we walk on the streets, people want to know what’s in our pant which is sad. All they want to do is explore or have a one-night-stand. Hence it is tough to find a partner in India.
If you had to advise or educate the society about the LGBTQ community, what would you say?
One basic thing I believe is that 'if you do not know, ask.' Because asking really helps you improve your knowledge about people like us. If you don’t ask, it leads to misconception. Ask us 'What is our preferred gender pronoun' or 'how would we like to be addressed and with what name.'
Did you face any kind of abuse or harassment as a child?
Yes, I did. Knowing that I identified myself as a woman or girl child, there was a lot of agitation and frustration built in because I wasn’t allowed to be who I was. Society wanted me to be as per their expectations and there was constant pressure on my family. I am a survivor of physical, mental, sexual abuse and neglect.
Can you tell us a little more about the Pride Parade as to why is it important to the community?
It is very important to the community because it is a day where people celebrate, people are able to express their gender identity, they are able to wear their gender on their sleeves and be comfortable with whoever they are irrespective of who is looking at them or whether they are being judged. It is a day of celebration.
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Nishtha Nishant tells us what's it like to be a transgender in India?