September 16, 2020
The transgender community had many hidden stories to tell. But not all those stories have been out in the open. That is when we decided we would step out and speak to transgenders. To know more about what they are thinking.
In India, many trans women as we know, work the streets. They make a living by asking for money in return for their blessings. These are the general facts everyone in India would probably know. But do you really know what a trans individual is actually going through? And what is it that others think about them?
Here’s how we started our search for a story?
We see transgenders working the traffic signal every morning before getting to work. Most of us try to interact with them but some turn a blind eye to the individuals. The question we like to ask is why? Because when we interacted with them they seemed joyful and sweet. Some were very humble.
We first set out to the streets of MG Road in Bengaluru, India. Thinking it would be an easy task to find them as we see them working every morning. But we faced certain struggles for a while. The streets were filled with traffic but there was no sign of any trans workers in the area. It was like hunting for a bear in a forest.
After a long wait, we spotted a trans woman sitting on the sidewalk with an old lady. She seems friendly and humble and quite shy to talk to. When we meet transgenders at the signal while working, one usually thinks they are very extroverted. And most people try to avoid them. But when you walk up to them and try to converse they feel shy to open up. We learned what the real reason was behind them being introverted.
The lives of a transgender.
We traveled to Koramangala where we heard there would be many transgenders working the area. It was a struggle again at first but we ended up bumping into a couple who were working the signal.
Out of all these transgender, many of them refused to speak about their lives. The trans community usually fear that their stories would be exposed to the world. They are shy to be in front of the camera. They blush when you ask them if we could take their picture. It is easy to walk up to them and converse. When asked why they were unwilling to answer they said they had to report to somebody. And that somebody would not be okay with them talking to strangers.
The one they call “Mummy” is who they work under. Basically, the trans community consists of a group of transgenders who are called ‘Chelas’. Chela is a word for someone who is a follower or a pupil. These ‘Chelas’ have a higher authority that they report to. The one they call Mummy. The name for their guru may be different in different regions.
Working for a living.
The transgenders are assigned to a particular signal. They report at a certain time and leave once their shift is over. They bond with other trans around the area for lunch. It sounds like any other normal working person. It basically is. Most transgenders migrate from a different city. They feel they would have more opportunities in bigger cities but fail to do so.
We spoke to one transgender who was willing to answer. She said she felt bad for us. She spoke about how she had got an opportunity to be a traffic police officer but refused to do so back then. Today she regrets having made that choice. It would have been of more value. This trans woman feels that if she was allowed to work in places she would. But many do not offer jobs to trans women. The amount of money she collets at signals is sufficient for her daily needs. She saves and sends some to her family back in her home town.
An outsider’s perspective.
We live in a community where people don’t openly say about what they are thinking. We decided to speak to some who work around the same area as these transgenders.
Some feel that these transgenders need to find other jobs that could help them sustain better. A small restaurant owner is willing to offer these women jobs but they refuse to do so. They work under their superior because they give them a place to stay and food to eat. While any other employers are willing to give them a job they prefer to stay with the community of their own. Some feel that the government also should do something to fend for them.
These transgenders have regular customers who help them out with funds. But others generally ignore them and turn a blind eye to them. They are humans at the end of the day. And all they expect is to be treated like one.
People say that they would help and support but when the time actually comes, everyone turns away. That is also one reason why trans women feel it is useless to talk to interviewers as it makes no difference to them or their community.
Next read: The Outsider’s Perspective to Drag