My life story as a transman in Manipur by Josh Ningthoujam

From the early years of my childhood I grew up thinking of myself as a man. I made friends with boys, played with them. However, few years into it, I was told not to be friends with boys because I was a girl (in their eyes). I was taunted for hanging out with them and everyone made me feel miserable about the way I was. I cried a lot but no one understood my cries, not even God.

During most of my schooling years, I was constantly beaten up to keep my hair long like a girl and I had to pay heed to them mostly. However, during my matriculation year, when I got a short haircut just the way I wanted my elder brother beat me up severely. But, I remained adamant about my choice. I bore the pain and threats to show my choice and identity. I started to live by my own terms at the face of physical abuse and threats in the family. Ironically, my family showed me love as long as I was proving helpful to them, but at other times they kept on scolding and humiliating me.

After I passed my matriculation exam, I requested them to admit me to a good school and as usual my request was dismissed. I was scolded that all schools were the same and it was just more practical to study in a nearby school rather than wasting money. Since I was seriously bent on studying further, I went ahead with whatever came on my way. I got admitted to a government college that had 11 and 12 courses as well. There was so much money crunch that it was often a problem to get enough money to go to college regularly.

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Inspite of such a terrible life, I was always passionate about singing and I had won several prizes in singing since childhood. So I dreamed about becoming a singer. But like every other dream, this one was also doomed. Every step that I took towards becoming a singer was met with failure. The music directors in Manipur I approached told me to, “become a girl and in turn they will compose songs for me and make me famous”. I was infuriated by their thought of turning me to a girl. And it culminated into forsaking singing and inevitably escalating to anxiety, loneliness and helplessness. There was a point when I started thinking of earning money and becoming independent, however the sheer lack of capital and resources rendered my thoughts impractical. Lost in the mire of these real life issues, I sought after the company of friends with whom I spent a lot of time. And back at home they got suspicious about me getting into drugs in my new-found company that they started punishing me unjustly. That’s when suicidal thoughts started coming to my mind.

Without any sense of direction, purpose and hope in life, the thoughts of committing suicide overtook me one night. That night, everyone had slept except for me, it was very late. I went out of the house and tied a rope to a tree and stood there contemplating over the question of death and life. I asked myself what was the point of living for me and yet I told myself if I died no one would ever come to know about the hardships and struggles of my life. There was a sudden spurge of thought that a good time would come for me as well and I must strive for that. And that thought pushed away the question of death far away.

Around that time I met my girlfriend and it gave me a different experience of life. She became a strong emotional support system; she supported me in so many ways. Despite that I would continue to break down and cry saying, “why am I bornt as a transman, I don’t want to live any longer.” Every time I mentioned about death, my girlfriend told me, “I don’t like that word and I never consider you as a transman. Deep in my heart, I idolize you as a real man, so don’t be disheartened, instead be courageous, and strive to be not lesser than anyone.” Like this she always restored my lost hopes, shared my pain.

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Josh Ningthoujam and his friend Yaipharembi

 

In the beginning of second semester of under graduation, my paternal grandmother gave me 300 rupees and my mother gave me 500 rupees. I clearly remember the day; it was Thursday, August 7, 2014. I got myself locked up inside the house for two days and seriously pondered on what I could do with the 800 rupees to earn money. Five days later I took a small table out in the street, wore a mask and started a meat shop by the roadside. That was the beginning of a new journey; I struggled through it and saved money. The venture went on for some years until another disaster struck me four years later.

In 2017, my family took and spent my hard-earned savings on my brother’s marriage. When I protested that they returned the money, I was beaten up to the point of splashing hot water on me. On December 24 that year, I left the house and took shelter at my best friend’s house. I stayed there temporarily. During my stay, my friends made me realize the support they would continue to give, and made me believe that All Manipur Transman Association (ATMA) would stand by my side. With these encouraging words, I recently relocated to my house, just five days back. And when I decided to go back, I had some clear thoughts in my mind:

Now I want to teach them a lesson that I won’t suffer in their hands. Not just me, I want to help out anyone out there like me. I would choose to survive and thrive for the sake of every transman out there, some whose hardships are even worse than mine. And much of what I am today is because of the unconditional love, support and care of my girlfriend and loyal friends.

 

The testimonial was originally written in Manipuri by Josh and has been translated to English by Kumam Davidson. Reach the author at joshnigthoujam143@gmail.com

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