Relationship status: Complicated.
When I see this status message on the Facebook page of several friends and acquaintances, I know there is a story there, some of which I may know, many of which I don’t know.
But can it get more complicated than this, I wondered when I met Krishna and Vidya last week.
First Krishna’s story. The 40-year-old lives with his chosen life partner and his parents in Moula Ali, on the outskirts of Hyderabad. He says that even though he and his partner were both born male, the parents have accepted them as a couple. In fact, they are treated as such and given the status of a married couple during pujas, ceremonies and other functions at home, just like his three brothers, who are into regular heterosexual marriages.
“My parents would rather consult with my partner and seek his concurrence on whatever happens at home, just like a son-in-law would be consulted in other close-knit homes. And they would rather stay with us than with any of my other brothers, as there is no clash with a daughter-in-law,’’ he adds, with a glint in his eyes.
But getting here was not easy. Krishna says from his earliest memories, he felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Being scolded for behaving like a girl made him hide his real feelings but past teenage, he realized, he did not want to live a life of deceit and tried to make his parents understand that he is the way he is because he was born that way and God perhaps made him that way. His mother understood.
“She in fact picks up an argument with whoever makes any adverse and unnecessary comment about me and my partner,’’ says Krishna. “Even our friends circle accepts us like this. But that’s perhaps because we stopped socializing with straight-sex people quite some time ago. ”
Life is complicated but then you have to make choices that help you make peace with yourself, he rationalizes.
“I and my partner hope to register as the first gay couple to be married, with the blessings of parents as well, once it is legal, ‘’ he says with hope.
To me, Krishna looks at peace with what he is and what he has made of his life.
“But then he is lucky. His parents understood and accepted. I don’t know anyone else like that. And that has made all the difference,’’ says Vidya, Krishna’s colleague.
Vidya has an adopted son studying at a boarding school in Kodaikanal. Vidya says the 11-year-old does not know that the person he has known as his mother all his life was not born a woman. Vidya shows me photographs of `his’ four sisters and mother who was a gynaecologist, a practicing medical doctor in Bangalore and was also incharge of a hostel where there were some 70 girls.
Vidya says `she’ is not sure if being surrounded by women had anything to do with `his’ wanting to be a woman himself. At 14, he went missing from home, went to Kadapa to get himself castrated. Because at that time, getting rid of the organ and somehow imagining that would transform him into a girl, was the paramount thought in his mind. He returned home within a week and stayed at home without anyone finding out about it for three years.
Vidya says the biggest regret in `her’ life is that she ran away from home, without informing anyone, to live with the man she took as her `husband‘. It gave her the freedom to dress and behave like a woman. And it was only when she met her mother and sisters 15 years later that she realized what hell she had put them through. The mother and sisters have now understood and accepted the lost `son’ who has come back as a daughter but it is not easy to face the rest of the world.
Vidya says she lived as man and wife for more than 10 years with the man she calls her husband and with whom she shared a deep emotional bond. But then, like most other men, she says, he was unfaithful and had affairs with other women and that really hurt. He also wanted biological children. Eventually, he left `her’ to have a heterosexual marriage and a `normal’ family.
Her faithful companions for more than 10 years now are her two female dogs.
“They are the only ones who have given me unconditional love, without being judgmental,” says Vidya.
She still cannot attend any family function and more than anything, it has been a confusing and traumatic life every single day, she says.
When I heard Vidya say with a tinge of sadness that all she had wanted was an emotionally satisfying relationship, that sex was not even important to her, it really seemed to echo what I have heard so many of my women friends say, making we wonder if we are really all that different. Seemed more like a continuum of human emotions.
Vidya was left single and depressed, she says she was suicidal and that’s when her son, an orphan baby of three months, accidentally came into her life.
“For so many years, I used to think, I would have been so blessed to be born a woman. But I no longer feel that way. I just want to be accepted as I am. A third gender.’’
This week, the government accepted the recommendation of the Technical Advisory committee and decided to include transgenders in the `Others’ category in the 2011 census. Transgenders will be given a separate code (3), with (1) for male and (2) for female respectively.
But will it make life more simple, just be the stroke of a pen, I wonder. Vidya says “Though my passport says F (female), I never travelled abroad for fear of being found out. Now in the neighbourhood, everyone knows me as a woman. Now if I say I am in `Others’ category, I once again become an oddity in society.’’
It is indeed complicated.