Girish (26), student
I have recently come out of the closet. This has been after a very long period of denial. I was attracted to men but couldn't come to accept this attraction so much so that I had never had a relationship until six months back. Because it was difficult for me to understand my sexuality, I work on queer rights with our on-campus LGBTQ group.
I thought people in Delhi and especially my university were pretty tolerant until one day my M.Phil guide at the university asked me: "So, how is your 'animal rights' project coming along? Do many people support you guys?"
'Don't go to the women's toilet'
Ratri (28), back office personnel
I am a transgender woman. I have been a little luckier than others and have had supportive parents. I have had basic education and attended an open university because I couldn't deal with the way other young people behaved around me in College. It was as if I didn't exist. My teachers would never ask me to answer questions in class, no one wanted to be my friend. I left college within a month of joining it.
The worst part was whenever I would go to the toilet and if any ayaji (maid servants at the college) was there she would ask me to go to the man's toilet outside the college premises even when I would repeatedly tell them that I was still 'biologically' a woman.
'My family tried to kill me'
Kira (26), student
I told my parents that I was a lesbian and they just couldn't digest the fact. They went from giving me the silent treatment, to anger, to beatings, and in the end someone in my family even tried poisoning me which is why I left the house.
My parents are affluent people and we live in a joint family. I can't say who tried poisoning me but something was mixed in the food I was to eat that afternoon and my cat had some part of it first. She died and the doctor said it was because of poisoning.
'Forced to leave the country.'
Snehal (24), student
My stepsister found out that I was gay and she had broken the news to my parents when I was 19. That one year was possibly the most torturous year of my life. I wasn't allowed out of my house, I was beaten up by my father every now and then such that I would "get out of this stupid fad" and I was even sent to a psychologist for counselling. They almost had me engaged saying that marriage would normalise me if nothing else.
I ran away, I was found and my uncle suggested that I should be sent to another country rather than bring a 'bad name to our family'. I receive an allowance from the uncle and have moved to Sweden. I have not spoken to my family in three years and I visited India but none of them know about this.
'University is not for you'
I have had so much trouble getting education because I was a transgender. I was sent to a boys' school and it was a torture when people found out. Anyway, just when I thought all that was behind me and I would be going to a progressive university, my first day at the university was horrible.
The guard looked me up and down, the other one actually commented in surprise, "Hijre bhi yahaan aata hai!" (transgenders also come to this university). I ignored him and went to find my class. The professor went out within minutes of introductions and she came back to tell me that the head of the department was calling me. The HOD said, "This is difficult for me to say but you will not be allowed into the University building if you wear a saree. It sends the wrong message."
Was all this just because I was wearing a saree or because I was a transgender trying to get some knowledge?
All the names in this article have been changed.