August 9, 2018
Mangaluru: “They beat me black and blue. They also threatened me that they would insert the lathi inside my private parts. Why are they so biased against transgenders,” asks Sanjana, recalling the harassment she underwent at the hands of a policemen a week ago for her alleged involvement in a theft case.
“Our life is like that. Nobody accepts us. Troubles and torture follow me wherever I go,” she says.
Sanjana’s lament is often on the lips of most transgenders. Harassed and humiliated, their lives are a testament at how cruel and nightmarish life becomes when one is born ‘different’. Born in a village in Dandeli, Uttara Kannada, Sanjana was named Ganesha by her parents. But she knew that she was not like the others. “My childhood dream was to act in movies.
On the other hand, I was always comfortable in girls’ company when I was in school. I liked wearing girls’ dresses, decorating Rangoli etc. But everyone used to mock me,” she says recalling her childhood days in her village.
When she reached high school, Sanjana began mingling with transgenders in Yallapur, a town near Dandeli. During weekends, she would travel to Yallapur and spend time with them.
But trouble started when one of her neighbours noticed her. Sanjana’s secret was out and her dad questioned her. She was beaten mercilessly when she could not provide a satisfactory answer.
“The torture never ended. Every day was a nightmare for me. Even my relatives began questioning me. Not just that, my younger brother was also targeted and humiliated,” Sanjana says. One day, she ran away from the house. “I had just appeared for one SSLC exam. I had to appear for five more.
But I could not concentrate due to the torture I was facing. I just ran away to Bengaluru and I had just 30 rupees in my hand when I landed in the city,” she recalls her adventure. But if she thought the Silicon Valley of India would be any different, she was wrong. With Rs30 in hand and no contacts, Sanjana stood quaking in fear in Majestic bus stand.
She was finally noticed by another transgender. “I explained my condition to her,” Sanjana says. “I also said that I want to change my gender.
She agreed to offer me shelter among their community. She also assured me that their community would help me to undergo sex change surgery.” After some rituals, she was enrolled in their community. But the good times didn’t last, as she came face-to-face with the cruel world of transgenders.
Sanjana had to beg and indulge in sex work on the streets of Bengaluru and bring money for the community members, who would snatch everything from her. And nobody was bothered to help her in sex change surgery. Days went on, her routine continued.
Her ordeal was finally interrupted with the arrival of a Good Samaritan in her life. The Good Samaritan helped her to undergo sex change surgery. She had to spend Rs 1.5 lakhs for the surgery. “The procedure lasted for 45 days and it was really painful. I was not supposed to see any male member’s face and could not even take bath. Even looking at the mirror was forbidden,” she says.
After 45 days, she was declared a ‘woman.’ Sanjana was born. After that, she started sporting long hair and wore women’s dresses.
One day, she went back to her home in Dandeli. But she was viewed suspiciously by her parents over her appearance, especially her long hair. Sanjana explained away her new hair as a new “filmy style, similar like cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni”, who also was sporting long hair that time. Finally, she was forced to admit what happened in her life.
Again a fight erupted and she had to leave home. This time, she took a bus towards Mangaluru – a new place for her. She did not want to come back to Bengaluru as she was fed up with the attitude of her roommates. To her dismay, something horrible was waiting for her in the coastal city.
Nobody came forward to give her shelter and no employer was willing to give her a job. Finally, she had to spend her night at bus stands. “I was staying at Panambur and every day was a nightmare for me. Even some people used to urinate on me while I was asleep at bus stands. On the other hand, policemen for no reason would torture me.
I just wanted to end my life,” she says.
Sanjana’s ordeal came to end after she came in touch with journalist and social activist Violet Pereira, who changed the lives of many such Sanjanas. “I call her ‘mummy’. In fact, she is a really mummy for me.
She stood by me whenever I faced trouble. She immediately responded when police tortured me,” says Sanjana. Now, Violet Pereira has opened an association for transgenders and Sanjana is one of the office-bearers. She was also chosen ‘brand ambassador’ for a national level ‘Lagori’ (a local game of undivided Dakshina Kannada district) tournament held in Mangaluru in January.
“It was one of the great moments of my life. Even my parents have accepted me. I had an opportunity to lead my younger brother’s wedding ceremony. But my dream of becoming an actress is still alive,” she says. Thing are looking up in Sanjana’s life. Recently, she completed a beautician course and is planning to settle in her life.
“I just want to live like all other men and women. I don’t wan’t anything from this society. But sadly, society is not accepting us. Sex work is last resort when society dumps us,” she says.