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I gifted myself a vagina: 5 stories to inspire the women of today

As Women’s Day approaches, we talk to five beautiful ladies who did not have the privilege of being born with XX chromosomes, but made themselves that anyway

brunch Updated: Mar 04, 2017 23:48 IST
Samreen Tungekar
Samreen Tungekar
Hindustan Times
women's day,transgender,women
From left to right: Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Gauri Arora, Bobby Darling, Anjali Lama and Niati Anand
From being a Men’s Health cover model, Gauri Arora is now on her way to being a head-turner. (Subi Samuel)

“My life is a gift to myself!”

After giving his first in-depth interview in HT Brunch (October 3, 2016) about the decision to go from Gaurav to Gauri, the future seemed set in stone. Gauri told us how difficult it was to choose to be who her heart wanted her to be. Today, she is recovering from her gender reassignment surgery and loving herself as a woman.

“My life is more special than a biological woman’s because I gifted myself a vagina,” says Gauri, happy with the course her life is taking. “I’m learning how to cook, I’m doing household chores. Not because I am a woman, but because I like being domestic.”

Gauri was once Gaurav Arora, a hot male model. But she’d always felt more like a woman than a man.

“Being a woman isn’t only about looking good and dressing well, it’s about the feeling of being a woman,” says Gauri.

“My life is more special than a biological woman’s because I gifted myself a vagina.”

She’d lived as a woman even before her surgery, and found it a completely different life from her previous one. “I’ve lived as a boy and I’m a woman now, and it’s so difficult to express myself, not just about my sexuality but in general,” says Gauri. “When I was a guy, I could just go out for coffee alone and not care. But now I have to think twice before stepping out alone. I believe people are open-minded, but they are still judgemental. I don’t hate men, but it’s so difficult to find a partner in today’s times.”

Gauri uses her experiences as the basis for her new life. “I just want to tell women to do what they want because in the end, people are still going to say what they want to say,” she says.

Nitin, now Niati Anand, loves the freedom that comes with being a woman.

“Be the most real version of yourself!”

“Closets are for clothes, not for people,” was Niati Anand’s message when she came out on social media. Her timeline has since been flooded with responses, backing her for being brave and accepting her identity.

Born and raised in Delhi as Nitin, she worked at a call centre before moving to journalism. An editor of an online magazine for over five years now, she was 28 when she decided to embrace the woman within her. “People feel the transformation should ideally be at 21 or 22, but there’s no right age for this,” she says. “People say that by the time I’ve really transitioned, I will be in my 30s. How does that matter?”

Niati’s parents are conservative, and she came out first to her aunt. “My aunt said she already knew it and spoke to my mother,” she says. “She advised me not to take any steps without telling my parents. They are supportive, but they don’t understand the concept. They think it is something that can be ‘treated’.”

Her two biggest fears about gender reassignment were acceptance by her family, and acceptance from the public. “My doctor told me the only person I need acceptance from is myself,” says Niati.

“The moment you accept yourself, that’s where the game begins and ends.”

She loves the freedom that comes with being a woman. “I love the ability to change mindsets,” she says. “As a man I was outgoing. I want to tell people that women can be out there too. Now, I’m doing things I love – dressing up, going out, getting male attention…”

Niati’s also clearer than most people about where women should be in the world. “I see people being critical of their bodies. So, I want to say that even though I’m not completely transformed, I still go out dressed the way I want. And if I can do that, you can too.”

Her stand goes deeper. “I see women change their course of life for men. Be independent, be the most real version of yourself,” says Niati.

Bobby Darling with her husband Ramneek Sharma.

“Just live your life!”

Bobby Darling is the original Bollywood transgender woman, who allowed herself to be the butt of clichéd Hindi film jibes when she first took her decision. It took guts, gumption and resolve to go from Pankaj Sharma to Pakhi. For those who don’t know, Bobby married Bhopal-based businessman Ramneek Sharma, 28, in 2016. As a married woman, she’s happier than ever that she changed herself into the person she wanted to be.

“When I came to Mumbai, I had to struggle because the sex reassignment surgery was very expensive,” says Bobby. “I promised myself I’d earn money for my surgery, and I did just that. I’ve been a woman for a while now, and I cannot be happier.”

The journey could never be called easy, but Bobby has never been ashamed of who she is. “It’s my life. I have the right to live it the way I want to,” she says.

“I love being able to show off my curves, wear what I like, dress how I want

As a woman, Bobby is proud of the way she looks. “I love being able to show off my curves, wear what I like, dress how I want and indulge my love for cooking!” she says. And she has absolutely no problem being herself, even when people whisper behind her back.

“I don’t care what people say,” she says. “I have a loving husband who has supported me without hesitation. That’s the only approval I need.”

Given her background, she’s a cheerleader for women. “Just work really hard, with determination, and the world will salute you. Live your life the way you want,” she says.

Model Anjali Lama is the first transgender to walk the ramp for Lakmé Fashion Week

“Women never give up!”

Anjali made history by becoming the first transgender model to walk the ramp at the Lakmé Fashion Week this February. The attention she received made her journey, from the fifth son of a family in Nepal to a high-flying woman in India, worth it.

“I understood what I had felt for all those years only in 2005, and I wanted to get transformed as soon as possible,” says Anjali. “But you can’t always easily get what you wish for. I got silicon breast implants in 2010 and I’m awaiting surgery to become who I always wanted to be.”

“Men don’t have the passion and determination that women have,” she says. “I love the way women face problems and motivate people. Women know how to not give up. Look at me, I had to deal with so much in my life but I still fought.”

“I love the way women tackle problems....Look at me, I had to deal with so much but I still fought.”

When she came out to her family and friends, they distanced themselves from her. “I felt bad, but I was happy that at 19, I found the answer to my complicated feelings. My mother has been my biggest support.”

Anjali’s career began in 2009, but it was a struggle. “People told me I wasn’t being selected for shows because I’m transgender. I was unemployed for two years,” she says. Now Anjali wants to inspire others. “Your life depends on your point of view, so be positive,” she says. “From birth to death, life is full of struggles. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. ”

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi believes that feminism applies to all communities and religions

“I feel so complete!”

She’s bold, she’s fierce and she never stops speaking her mind. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi has been the face of transgender rights for as long as one can remember, and as far as she’s concerned, Women’s Day must be celebrated with fervour because feminism applies to all communities and religions.

“But even today, the women’s movement is so fragmented that we’re still fighting it. The day women stop judging other women on the basis of morality, the movement will be successful,” she says.

“The day women stop judging other women on the basis of morality, the women’s movement will be successful.”

Laxmi never cared about what people said when she embraced womanhood. “I was just happy,” she says. She says being a woman makes her feel complete. “I’m a mother. I have a husband. I love doing my shringaar,” she says.

She doesn’t see sexism as an issue, even when public figures make derogatory remarks about women. “I don’t think anything is challenging,” says Laxmi. “We just need to have a society where girls are taught about their rights and about the law from a young age. The challenge is more about finding and accepting oneself. So rediscover the woman within you. If you learn to be comfortable within your skin, the world will grow to respect you.”

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From HT Brunch, March 5, 2017

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First Published: Mar 04, 2017 22:11 IST