T.W. Transphobia, Self-harm, Self-hatred
The year is 2011, and a little girl is alone in an empty room. There’s no one at home, and the little girl just came out of the bath. There’s a mirror in front of her, but when she looks at it, she doesn’t see herself; she sees a boy. The little girl wonders why she can’t recognize the person in the mirror. She is confused, but she moves on. Reaching into the closet, she grabs a skirt. ‘This is so pretty’, she thinks, and she puts it on. She twirls around and wonders if she looks as pretty as she feels, so she peeks into the mirror. But all she sees is an awkward-looking boy in a skirt. A sudden feeling of shame rushed in like a tsunami. It came out of nowhere, and the girl felt the darkness swallowing her; she didn’t even fight it. After all, what did she have worth fighting for? She was alone.
‘I’m not supposed to feel like this. There is something wrong with me. I’m a boy.’ He swore never to think of it again. He moved on. Days, months, and soon, years passed. The little boy grew up with very few friends. He never could understand nor relate to the other boys his age, yet he tried very hard to fit in. When he failed, he felt rejected, and so he built a wall and put on an air of nonchalance. But then something unexpected happened, he found a little gang of weirdos and outcasts, each unique and different in their way but together they challenged the normative. With them, he learned to explore himself a little bit. He discovered his love for research and his attraction towards people irrespective of their sex.
Despite this cathartic realisation, something was still amiss. A void remained in the little boy’s heart, but he could never understand what it was. The chasm stayed there no matter what he tried. Feeding on his joy until all that was left was a feeling of emptiness and self-hatred. Out of options, the little boy resorted to the most straightforward escape: run away. ‘I’m no one; why should my feelings matter? Why would anyone care? I’ll just ignore it’, he thought. Things got busy. He kept himself busy. He shoved his feelings away and worked so hard to get where we wanted to be in life. It wasn’t easy, and there was only so much running away he could handle. Sometimes, those bottled feelings would rush out, and the little boy would lose all control over his actions. He would blame himself for everything wrong around him. He would ‘punish’ himself for being such a terrible person. Even when he finally got into his dream college, the joy he felt was transient. ‘I don’t deserve it.’
Life in college opened a new door. He finally had some freedom, a sense of autonomy. He was in a new place, a new city, a new world where he could spread his wings. With his newfound freedom of expression, he made new friends, friends who he cared for, friends who cared for him, but he still could not find it in his heart to love himself, the abyss invariably feeding on everything good that happened to him, growing deeper and deeper. The world kept moving around him, but he felt stuck. Until one day, he was sitting with one of his closest friends, and in the middle of a random conversation, she said, ‘You know, I’ve always seen you as a girl.’ His heart skipped a beat. The conversation drifted, but the words kept ringing in his head. Something moved, deep inside him. And there was no ignoring it. Days passed, but his friend’s words kept coming back to him, the more he thought of it, the more it made sense.
Around the same time, he made his first transgender friend. Before this, the word ‘trans’ was so alien to him: a word he had only found in memes and online forums. But the more he talked with this friend, the more he felt like his whole world had turned upside down. His worldview was smashed into smithereens. Virtual spaces on the internet became his refuge. He spent more time on his own, and he started reading. Deep within the chasm in his heart, he could feel a soft repeating pulse, almost like the sound of a heart, reverberating through the abyss. With every story he read, tears welled up in his eyes. Every sentence made the sound of the beat from his heart resonating louder and louder with his heartbeat until they became one, and suddenly, it hit him. He was not alone. She was not alone. The little girl emerged from the void finally free. Her eyes were red with tears. Sitting in that tiny room, she could not stop crying, but these were not tears of sorrow, they were of joy. ‘I am not alone.’
That little girl is me. After years of being stuck in that void, I had finally emerged, but my challenges had just begun. The boy I have had a whole different life; he had friends and people who loved and cared for him. What if they don’t like me? What if they don’t accept me? My life had just begun, and I had no idea how I was going to go ahead with it. But I had to take a leap of faith. I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. The first people I told the truth were a few of my closest friends. I had no idea how it would go, but I took the jump, and I’m glad I did. They hugged me tight as I cried and said they loved me no matter what.
‘I am not alone.’
I decided to transition; I chose my preferred name, my preferred pronouns. And now I had to come out to my parents. I was worried because I had heard stories about how difficult it was for some others. But I needed to do it. Even if they didn’t accept it straight away, I had to tell them. My friends promised to be there for me, irrespective of how it went. My mind running all over the place, I sat my parents down and told them that that the little girl inside was the real me, it always had been. They tried their best to understand and said they are here to support me. ‘I am not alone; I never was.’
At first, I was hesitant to let the world see the real me, but I decided to take that step anyway. I started buying more feminine clothes and bought my first makeup with my friends. More and more people began to notice it. Strangers gave me odd looks. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t care, but I had my friends with me, and they never let me feel out of place. We started working together to build an inclusive space for LGBTQIA+ on our campus. I became a part of a community of transgender academicians. Even the few professors I came out to were incredibly supportive. No matter how hard it got trying to deal with trying to live a woman’s life in a man’s body, my friends didn’t let me face my demons alone.
I had a community. ‘I am not alone.’
Rishika (She/her) identifies as a pan-romantic transgender woman and is an active researcher in the field of neuroscience and a student at IISER Pune. She is an aspiring queer/trans activist and an intersectional feminist. Find out more about her on Twitter @NeuroRishika.