Four months down, and I’m busier than ever in Mysore. No travel has been scheduled and my desk feels like there is no other place to be. The team at Public Health Research Institute of India (PHRII) has been supportive and creative when it comes to my project, helping the transgender community. I can say that at the organization we have a great relationship. I have lots of Dad’s and Mom’s and people that care for my safety, especially my health. We have discussed many topics, but something caught my attention this first week of January. I can say that talking about relationships can be somehow uncomfortable in this part of India. Not everyone is open to talk about marriage or even touch the topic about what is to be in a relationship in India. However, the transgender community was not shy about this topic in the focus groups and had lots to say when conducting it at PHRII.
What defines a relationship? Is it something spiritual or a physical attraction? It was interesting how the Hijada community define having a relationship that will fulfill the definition of a husband, but at the same time, because of discrimination and lack of jobs, it is difficult for them to commit to one person. Having different sexual partners is just part of their lifestyle and line of work. In my opinion, it is not something that they have chosen, but it’s something they have to do to live and survive.
“In our community, madam, few are there who will dedicate themselves for one person, for whom they will love true hearted and will decide to live with them for life time” (Transgender, 2018).
This quote, taken from one of the focus groups, was given by one of the participants explaining to the counselors how difficult it is to have a partner when discrimination and rejection exist in a community. It is also challenging to create a family when they are forced to work as sex workers because of jobs not being available for a gender that is neither defined as female or male. For this gender, not just the community contributes to the lack of available jobs, it is also the fear of those that decide to be in a relationship with a transgender woman. After reading my first two translations of the focus groups, many men stay around the transgender for different reasons. Some will be in a relationship with a Hijada only because of economic reasons, looking for someone to support their lifestyle.
“In the same way, few are there who give us money to keep us. Just like that there are a few who grab money from us and keep us” (Transgender,2018).
On the other hand, many transgenders know that having a husband is difficult and preferred many sexual partners that will fulfill their definition of a relationship. Now, what I did find is that when there are multiple partners in a relationship, most of the time the men do not know each other, and this can cause relationships to end very quickly. Unfortunately for Hijada’s it is a way of feeling loved and somehow been taken care of. Is a way of holding onto a feeling of caring for a partner and not worry about people leaving them after a certain time.
“One will keep 2-3 people, madam” (Transgender, 2018).
Men are not the only problem when it comes to transgender having a serious relationship with a partner in India. Families are a big concern because of the lack of acceptance and the stigma behind the transgender community. As I have mentioned before in previous blogs the LGBTQIA community has been in the shadows for many years in India. Imagine trying to build a family as a transgender and live a life where your partner’s family and the transgender families will not accept a different type of relationship that is not heterosexual.
“That is the truth known to all of us. That is we can’t bear children. Their family will not accept us. So what we do is we will be knowing that they will not remain with us” (Transgender,2018).
But, not everything is sadness, rejection or violence. The community has a strong view of how to love and what are the real expectations in a relationship even though India’s community sees this type of associations wrong and unnatural. The transgender communities still have their own ways of creating an environment where love is present for a long or short time. Most of us dream of the perfect relationship and the happily ever after, but Hijada’s dream of having a person that can support them emotionally even if it is for a short period of time. Having a husband gives them a sense of a regular lifestyle like anyone else in this world. The love is so strong that they believe in giving everything and anything to the person that will become their partners for life.
“We will love them as any woman would love them. When he leaves us our heart will break into pieces. We will feel very sad as he left us though we showed him lot of love” (Transgender, 2018).