How a transgender from Sikkim is building her life in Chennai
Reliable, useful journalism needs your support.
Over 600 readers have donated over the years, to make articles like this one possible. We need your support to help Citizen Matters sustain and grow. Please do contribute today. Donate now
She calls herself Rudy, after she fell in love with Rihanna’s ‘Rude Boy ‘when she was 15. She is trans-sexual. And this is her story.
Born as Vivek B.K. in a small township in Sikkim, she has come a long way in defining herself. Having identified herself as gay when she was 7 years old and still a boy, the decision to transition to the female gender was a natural progression, an essential step for being completely true to herself. She tells her story over a cup of coffee at the end of her shift at a high end salon in one of the popular malls in the city. Wearing a colourful beanie with tufts of her blonde dyed hair playfully sticking out, she gestures emphatically over her coffee, her flawless make-up a testimony to the skill she wants to master.
One cannot help but wonder how this 23-year-old battles it out everyday in a city that is yet to completely accept alternative sexualities. But Rudy responds to all curious questions with disarming honesty and positivity.
So, how did you land up in Chennai?
There are many from my state in Chennai. The opportunities for young people are so much more in the bigger cities in India, and I really wanted to learn the art of professional make-up. So when I got a chance to learn and work here, I jumped at the chance.
And how has Chennai treated you so far?
It has been life changing. I always felt my soul was that of a girl’s and it is only when I came in contact with the transgender community here that I truly felt like I had found myself and I can express myself without any doubt. I made so many friends there and they have been extremely supportive of my decision.
Aside from the occasional cat calls and jeers , this city has been mostly welcoming.
Did you always want to be a girl? Or was it more of a sudden realization after you came here?
A bit of both, you could say. I used to love playing ‘home and family’ and could relate to girls much more than to boys. I felt the same way they did and couldn’t understand why. And it all made sense when I finally met many transgender and trans-sexual people here.
How do you feel now that you have started the medical process of transitioning?
Some days are hard since I have to undergo weekly hormonal injections. But otherwise, I cannot wait for the process to be over!
What has been the reaction of your friends and family?
My friends have always accepted me, as I am. For them, I am just Vivek or Rudy, irrespective of gender. Now, when they see all my photos on Facebook, they see that I am doing what I have always wanted to do and am being what I have always wanted to be. As for my family, they come from a more conservative section of society. However, there has been no ‘talk’ about my choices, and I believe they have largely accepted who I am.
Do you use the boys’ or the girls’?
Definitely the girls’!
Do people stop you?
When they do, I tell them to come along, so they can lay any fears they may have to rest. I look different, act and talk differently and that can sometimes be unnerving for people. I talk to them, am open with them and let them know that I have the same rights as they do.
What are some of the difficulties you face in day to day life?
I have come to realize what women go through everyday. The teasing is a constant and something I am learning to ignore. If I don’t, even walking down a street or grocery shopping becomes a nightmare. But I have gotten into a fair number of fights when I feel things have gone too far. Fortunately for me, I have not had too many difficulties finding a job and in a field I love, but many face many difficulties in finding a job that matches their skills, or any job at all for that matter.
What do you feel must change in our society in the attitude towards alternate sexualities?
First and foremost, understand and realize that we are people too. We have the same dreams, goals and everyday difficulties. More difficulties, in fact. We face more scrutiny and judgement when we apply for jobs. I really hope the attitude towards assessing our abilities changes and the same opportunities are afforded to us based on our merit and skills and not our gender identities.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Everywhere. There is this woman whom I follow on Youtube. Her name is Panna Gabriel, and she is a transgender and is featured on Bharat Katha. She is so strong and something she posted the other day has given me a lot of strength. She said “When one has one’s senses intact and with no handicap, one needs to learn to ignore society’s ridicule and just live life. Be the happiest you can be and have fun.’ At least, that is my interpretation.
I also love Apsara Reddy; she is from Chennai and a pioneer in our community with her own magazine and she has really come a long way.
What do you see for yourself in the future?
I see myself as an acclaimed make-up artist, and of course married. I would love to have kids of my own someday too!