Being Women

Giving Birth to Myself

She can’t find her own reflection anymore this time, as there stands a man dressed in a shirt and a pair of pants, all set for office. With head hung low, Neel proceeds towards her office with the burden of being born in the wrong body.

As rays of the sun emerge through the windows, darkness vanishes, and the world wakes up to chase dreams and fulfil wishes, someone gets up from her bed too, and stands in front of the mirror. She gazes at her reflection with awe, and smiles, affirming her love for herself. Her dusky body wrapped in a black satin nightie makes her feel prettier and more confident to face the challenges that the world brings upon her. The alarm rings and it is time for her to get ready for work in an office where she is supposed to chase her dreams. She removes the wig, rubs off her lipstick, and with a cotton soaked in makeup remover, she wipes off the rest of her makeup. Off comes the satin nightie as she wraps herself in a white towel to get ready for office. It takes her about an hour to get dressed and come back to see herself in the mirror. She can’t find her own reflection anymore this time, as there stands a man dressed in a shirt and a pair of pants, all set for office. With head hung low, Neel proceeds towards her office with the burden of being born in the wrong body. 

The world is for those who identify themselves in the binary genders of male or female. This was especially true till some time ago, when conversations about gender and sexuality hadn’t become as openly discussed as they are now. It was a mean and unforgiving environment for anyone from the LGBTQ+ community. I proudly state that I belong to this community where no one judges the other person, where no one cares what gender you are, where no one cares who you love or what you wear. 

I was born in an upper-middle-class family which was just as conservative as most Indian families often are. I was assigned the sex ‘male’ at birth, and this somehow sealed my fate of being ridiculed, laughed at, and mocked, when I came out to the world as a transwoman. Thankfully, I was privileged enough to have received a good education throughout my life without having to worry about money. I was also given the freedom to explore myself in the fields of art, craft, science and sports. Since childhood, I was always attracted to the clothes that my female friends wore. I was strong enough to conceal my desire and went on being the guy that everyone wanted me to be. It was a walk-through exploration all throughout my childhood and a sudden realisation post my college years that I had to face my truth. I realised that if I couldn’t accept and embrace my own femininity, how would the world accept me! Going against my family and with minimal support from friends, I garnered the strength to quit my seven-figure salary job of five years and started from scratch to give birth to Naina. That is what I am today… an engineer, a writer, a fitness trainer, a model and a motivational speaker for my community. I still may not seem totally convincing as a woman when I am walking amongst you, but I am proud to have given birth to myself. It has been a journey full of courage, realisation and achievements.

Coming out to the world was a gradual process and it took me time to settle down into being myself. Living a life of my dreams, now I am at least content when I see myself in the mirror and find my real reflection there. Gone are the days when I used to wake up with the guilt of not being able to be what I am. I have got over rigid, regressive societal norms that stopped me from experiencing my freedom. My journey has been a ray of hope to many like me and I hope I could motivate and help people living a life like mine to embrace their true selves. I have always emphasised the importance of education and imbibing new skills that would help a person be independent. Being independent financially and personally, is the only way a person can be recognised in the mainstream arena. I never begged or asked anyone for inclusion. Inclusion comes from one’s persona, aura and achievements. Sadly, that is how the world starts listening to you. That’s why people feel compelled to jump into the rat race. For me, it has always been about having respect for myself in my own eyes. The day I started respecting myself, I became confident, which in turn brought with it, societal acceptance. Still, there are people who look at me in a different manner and wonder why they have to share their coveted seating area at an airport with me! I am probably much more educated and accomplished than they could ever imagine, but that’s my plight, and I am strong enough to go through all of it. I’m proud that despite all the pushback and resistance I’ve faced so far, I have done justice to my life by not living a lie.  My only hope is that the world knows and accepts that we are humans too and that there is nothing wrong with us. My story could be the story of your child, your grandchild or your neighbour. Give a person the space they deserve to grow and prosper. Their looks, gender, sexual orientation or background should not limit their rights or their future. We all have a hero in us, and we all have our own superhero stories!

By Naina Menon

Naina Menon is a proud 33 year old transwoman who has achieved many milestones in her life. An engineer by degree and professionally a successful writer, fitness trainer and a model, she has been an inspiration to many people from the LGBTQ+ community and is very actively involved in speaking about gender equality and issues faced by transwomen in the society.

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