“I was always the woman I am,” says the multi-faceted Indian Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, 24, doctor and future surgeon, active transgender activist and star on the social network Instagram.
Few saw her the way she wanted. On the contrary, from the age of four, she was harassed and embarrassed every time she tried to put on her mother’s saris or heels, or did anything considered feminine.
“My parents saw me as a poor male,” explains Gummaraju, now a doctor at KMC Manipal, one of the main university hospitals in the country.
Older boys teased her, teachers humiliated her, and a psychologist advised her family to expose her to “more male influences.”
No one considered the possibility that she was transgender, not even herself.
“He did not allow me to question my gender identity because in this country there is a very negative image of transgender people. They are seen as sinister, abusive, dangerous,” he acknowledges.
Although the vast majority of Indians pray to Hindu gods who often mutate from male to female forms, the transgender community is marginalized from society, with many of its members forced to beg or sex work.
– Being myself online –
When Gummaraju was a teenager, she hated herself so much that she began to harm herself.
Hope came with her admission to medical school, an achievement that commanded respect among those who had rejected her.
There she found a more caring community, including a therapist who suggested experimenting with her gender expression.
And that’s where Instagram appeared, “an online space where I could be myself.”
Today he has about 220,000 followers, but his first posts were not positively received by his conservative professors and colleagues.
She persisted and eventually came out as transgender to her supportive family and then to hundreds of people on Facebook.
The transition began with her new name Trinetra – in honor of a Hindu goddess – a hormone replacement therapy in 2018 and surgery in February 2019.
It was a euphoric moment, he remembers, although afterwards they recommended a month of bed to recover.
“Seeing your body change shape is like a mist rising,” he explains. “I could recognize myself in the mirror,” she adds.
– Collateral damage –
Some side effects were unexpected, and troublesome. “It was hard to see that one of the things that made me realize that I was now a woman was being whistled and groped,” she highlights.
She also encountered threats of rape when she posted self-portraits online, something cisgender women, those whose gender identity matches their birth sex, can empathize with.
“I have experienced many things in common with cisgender women,” she continues.
But the growing debate over transgender rights threatens to make their collective’s existence even more precarious, with Western cisgender feminists calling for them to be removed from women-only spaces, Trinetra laments.
After a hospital security guard forced her to leave the women’s bathroom in 2017, Gummaraju contracted a urinary infection from not drinking water for hours to avoid using a public toilet.
“Some women do not seem to understand that we are not cisgender men. We are not the ones who pose a threat to them,” she argues. The alarmist speeches must end, “he adds.
Despite the many challenges faced by the community, she hopes her rising profile will help transgender youth to realize that “life just gets better.”
“As doctors, we know that humans are resilient by default. Have faith in your ability to heal yourself,” he sums up.
amu / stu / lto / dbh / mab / zm