03 April, 2010
Gazal Dhaliwal Answers
1) When did you come out to your family? Did they have any idea of what was going on with you before you came out?
I came out to my brother when I was maybe 11-12 years old. I told my parents about my condition (although I didn’t have any name for it then) at about 14, when I was in my 9th (or 8th) standard, I think. If they ever had a clue about it beforehand, they never let it be known. But I’m really glad that I was open and honest to them that early in my life. Not only did I feel relieved, but also, it was great that they got almost 12 years to prepare themselves for what was coming (although I must say that they were understanding and sensitive all along). I should say that over all those years, my parents and I lived through my condition together and we all came out successful at the end of it all! :-)
2) I've heard from transmen/transwomen that transitioning period has been the toughest period in their lives. How did you manage to speed past it?
Honestly, it never looked like I sped past it. It seemed excruciatingly long, but now that I look back, I realize that however long it might seem to me, I’ve been blessed to have had a shorter transition period than what is considered the average. I can’t put a clear reason to it, except perhaps a feeling of wellness that my family created around me, in the past one year when I was staying with them. That helps a lot, psychologically, and one’s body tends to reflect one’s state of mind. Makes sense? :-)
3) Did you have any issues with your day-to-day life esp. in terms of housing, job hunting, and dealing with people in common places etc?
The transitioning period was certainly very tough. One of the toughest, I’d say. Not THE toughest, may be. I think what makes it so tough is an irony. The fact is that people are noticing the little little changes in us and are reacting the way one expects the entity called ‘people’ to react generally, but we ourselves, on the other hand, never feel that the change is good enough. Desperation gets almost each one of us. It did get me too, and only my family can tell you how badly. I was actually so desperate that I went for my surgery within just 9 months of having started the hormones (not a great plan!) Even though we start transition with the knowledge that it is almost a 3-year project, or at least 2, we still count in days. It’s of course understandable, because the reactions from left, right and centre make us feel like a bigger freak than we might have ever felt. And it becomes the worst when one is staying all alone, so even after an emotionally strenuous day outside, when one comes home, there is only that one person in the mirror to talk to, and that person isn’t exactly in the physical and mental shape that you’d like them to be.Job hunt was actually never an issue for me. I was always very comfortable at the place where I was working. It’s very important to be honest and open to one’s immediate circle. That matters the most. I had shared with my colleagues and my boss about what I was intending to do even before I started it. So, there was a supportive ambience and a lot of comfort – very important in that period. Also, being in the media field, I think people have a slightly wider perspective on the world than the general world, otherwise, or at least, they’re inclined towards showing that they do. In either case, what matters is that one feels comfortable, and that’s priceless! [There was a period of about 8-9 months around my surgery – before + after, when I was not working, but that was out of choice]Coming to my residential setup, the place where I was putting up during my pre-surgery transition was very comfortable and peaceful. Finding it was not a problem, thanks to a dear friend who owned it. But there were some 20-odd boys (teenagers and full-grown adults; even a couple of kids) who would gang up around the entrance and do all kinds of histrionics when I left for work and came back home. A couple of times, they did some very scary stunts as well, but let’s let that be. If I were who I am today, I’d have certainly spoken it out with them, but who I was then was a bundle of nerves, sometimes reveling in exhilaration, but sometimes scared to death. With time, I just learnt to turn deaf in those couple of minutes when I was passing the entrance of the building each day.Dealing with people in public places was alright. Not a cakewalk, but alright. It was never a comfortable feeling, but then I had had people staring, laughing and passing comments at me even pre-transition… For decades, actually. Yes, there was an added fear of lonely late night traveling, but thankfully, nothing horrible ever happened.
4) Post-transition, has there been a marked change/difference you see in the society who only know you as a woman?
(A lot of transwomen validate the existing gender discrimination against women)Oh, the change around me is incredible! It’s like one extreme to the other. Literally. So much so, that nowadays, sometimes, I find lesbian women hitting on me (which is quite flattering, really) :-). So yes, I get a lot of respect, attention, sometimes privileges on account of being a girl! Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with any significant gender discrimination yet, and I somehow know that I won’t in future, as well. Yes, eve-teasing happens sometimes, but that’s a lot more in and around my tiny little hometown. Bombay is very comfortable even at midnight. Life is good! :-)
5) Any light-hearted/funny incidents that you experienced, that made you smirk/laugh?
Apart from the ones I have mentioned in the post below, something interesting happened recently. I won’t call it funny, but something that did make me laugh, out of joy.I met this wonderful lady in a social group. We interacted quite a bit over a period of a few days, and on the last day, she told me that she had been evaluating me for the place of her daughter-in-law, and that she would be delighted if I met her son and we could like each other. I felt like somebody had put my heart on a soft warm pillow and caressed it with a lot of love. I hugged her and realized then that even though I was not going to consider this proposition, I owed her the truth. And then, I told her…She was silent for a couple of minutes and then said, “Well, that doesn’t change what I said.” I was not surprised because somehow, I knew that she would say that, but I also WAS surprised, because under ordinary circumstances, nobody would expect her to say that. So, the part of me which is the society was amazed, but the part of me which is me simply laughed, hugged her again, and said, “Thank you!”