Respect and acceptance for transgender people in India

Tharika is a young transgender woman aged 19 years from a remote village of Tamil Nadu.

Tharika is a young transgender woman aged 19 years from a remote village of Tamil Nadu. In 2014, transgender people were granted legal status of ‘third gender’ in India, however a recent reversal of the law has made same-sex acts illegal once again. Tharika was supported by the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) Chennai Branch by providing a comprehensive package of SRH and HIV services, including gender transition.

“I am the only son of my parents.  They raised me with love and affection. My life was ‘normal’ until I was 14 years of age. When I was a student, I felt some changes in my behaviour. I started wearing my mother’s clothes.  I realized that I am actually a women captured in a male body.

In my school, my classmates started bullying me. I tried to talk to my teacher about the bullying, but she just did not want to listen to me.  My parents were also unable to help me.  One day at school when one of my peers started bullying me, I was so stressed that I punched him very hard.  The school authorities suspended me from school. I felt insecure and unprotected. That day I decided to run away from my village.

The next day I landed in Chennai.  One day when I was roaming aimlessly in the streets, I met a peer educator of a community organization working with the transgender community. She took me to the drop-in-centre where I met many members of my community. They all became my friends.

My friends took me to the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) clinic in Chennai, where they are providing hormonal therapy free of cost. There I met an outreach worker who was very friendly. She helped me to enroll myself for the therapy.  After getting my consent and after a number of tests, the doctor started me on hormonal therapy.

I have now been taking these pills for the past year. I have also undergone laser hair removal, breast implantation, and voice therapy at an institution referred by the clinic. Now my physical appearance has completely changed. I have become a complete woman in appearance. My dream of becoming a woman has come true.

One day the outreach worker took me to visit my parents. That was my first visit to my parents after five years. They were very happy to see me. They embraced me with tears in their eyes. My mother was surprised to see me as a woman. My parents asked me to stay with them, but now that I am working in Chennai, I visit my parents only in weekends.

FPAI has helped me a lot. They helped me to realize my dream to become a woman, gave me the confidence to face the world, and helped me to rejoin my family. I will remain ever grateful to FPAI.” 

Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) operates over a total of 4,000 service points, and primarily focuses on under-served rural areas and urban slums. The centres offer youth-friendly services that prepare young people for their future by building the confidence and self-esteem essential to forge healthy relationships, including LGBTI youth.