Groped, touched “by mistake,” and leered at, I developed a profound hatred towards my breasts as a teenager. This hatred extended to my whole body, thanks to Indian men, and the impossible standards of performative femininity.
I am quite sure I suffered from dysphoria of some kind, and in the late 80s, my small town didn’t offer much in the way of explaining my condition. I sported short hair and loathed wearing dresses. A pair of jeans, a baggy t-shirt, sports bra, and a hat would summarize my wardrobe on most days. During festivals, weddings and other social gatherings, I would wait to come back home so I can rip off the “girly costume” I was forced to wear.
Early experience of sexual abuse made matters worse for (what I think to be) my dysphoria. When I had no support system, I, along with the rest of the society blamed me for the abuse that was done to my body. The decision to hate myself bode well with society because they could keep me under their thumb. This female hatred was not uncommon in my time, most of my friends knew we were dealt cards we are bound to lose with. Each one of us wished we were a man, seeing how the male sex class got away with a plethora of misdeeds.
Fast forward three decades, the body hatred is pretty much intact in all youngsters I see and interact with, but there seems to be a popular workaround to the problem. If being a woman is not working out for you, it seems, you could become a man! I allowed myself a momentary envy at the absence of such a “solution” back when I was gullible. Some years ago, a few lesbian friends have mentioned with agonising details the many deaths of homosexual women in rural India. One of them also confessed how this “solution” seems luring for her because her family would never “accept” her “lifestyle!” Absolutely none of these scenarios seemed normal.
I deeply empathize with women and girls suffering from dysphoria and perhaps, in my own way, I understand it as a personal experience too. But the way the world is claiming to solve or deal with it is preposterous and criminal. Thanks to the internet and epidemic vulnerability of young girls, the shenanigans of Dr. Butler and the market of trans surgery seems to have well and truly arrived in my town. I fear cases of ROGD (Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria) to spike too.
After I was cancelled for my “transphobia,” (a term I fail to understand or associate with) I started taking a closer look at the way Western countries were influencing Indian “queer movement.” Suffice to say that the woke liberals with their bottomless acceptance of every oppression as long as it is a woman’s “choice,” accepted this erasure of women and lesbians too. As I watched the accounts with anime characters post violent ‘kill terfs' GIFs to my tweets, I was hit with a sinister realization. What is happening in the anglosaxon countries where girl children as young as three years old are claiming to be trans and brought to gender clinics, is going to have a Bollywood redux in a matter of five years. And it sent a shiver down my spine. A country where there is a rape every fifteen minutes, and a shocking apathy from its government, I worry about our women and girls.
Given our population and the bloody hands of huge corporations, I am concerned that a large-scale experiment is waiting to happen like in the US & UK. The Trans Bill 2019 was passed amid major controversy in India because it denied the possibility of self ID among trangender persons. Recently, SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery) was made available as a free service in government hospitals in India. Once a person undergoes SRS, the bill proposes that a person can opt for an ID in their “desired sex,” until such time they can hold a “third gender” ID card. The government hospitals have a reputation in India for not being state of the art; it caters only to a certain demographic at the bottom of the pyramid. Earlier, people who opted to transition came from affluent families, spending 4 - 8 lakhs (about $10000) for surgeries. But the huge push by NGOs offering “gender education” to children, and the sweeping effect of social media brainwashing is a harbinger of things to come. Just like the West, India may soon see a spike in young girls opting for hormones/surgery.
Even with regulations ensuring that surgeries can only be opted by 18+ adults, many people have found a workaround to get it done much sooner. Indian trans rights activists seem to have made “transgender” an umbrella term for many communities who don’t exactly fit there. Hijras, for example, are often cited as transgender and it should’t be assumed so. Another mistake is to club women and girls with intersex conditions with the trans community. This is unfair to the intersex community because there is very little awareness about it as it is, so by clubbing it, the TRAs deny further research and care that can’t wished away with SRS alone. Of course there are people with intersex condition who’ve opted to be called trans or queer, but it is not, and should not be considered default. Even as adults decide to choose the “queer” path for themselves and opt for medical interventions, the same should’t be the norm for young girls.
Donovan Cleckley summarized in his tweet: Most of the “they/them” people whom I’ve met have been female, most often “queer,” but seemingly pretty straight, not perceivably gender-nonconforming, not gender-dysphoric at all, and have worn “gender identity” as a special fashion statement to say “I’m not like other girls.” I predict something similar is brewing in India too because being a woman is just not enough; it is too vanilla. The women/ trans rights activists who came after me were pro pornography, believe “sex work” is empowering, and their desperate attempts to be anything but a ‘woman’ was lost on me.
With all these thoughts bearing down on me, I made the most of this pandemic and decided to make a lockdown documentary. My upcoming film, Not my cup of T will take a critical look at the way anglosaxon countries allowed young girls to get medical intervention with absolutely no regulation. My film will point out the dangers of such medicalization that is wrongly claimed to be “reversible” and when not offered, lead to suicides of trans people.
I have interviewed academics, transgender adults, detransitioners, psychotherapists, endocrinologists, parents and researchers etc and their conviction fuels mine. Once completed, I hope the film resonates with everyone. I hope young girls in my country who battle with their distress can watch it and know that they are not alone. If transition is the way for them, I hope they make that decision after carefully assessing the risks pointed out in my film. I hope young girls will take pride in being women, and embrace womanhood by shunning all stereotypes attached to it. I hope with all my heart that the stories of detransitioned women and transgender adults who don’t conflate sex and gender, get the mainstream attention they deserve. So far, it is hard to hear them amid the cacophony of the trans organisations, corporations and TRAs.
This feature-length documentary is in its post-production stage at the moment. I would love for you to extend your support in completing it. You can write to me or paypal me at limesodafi[email protected]. If you would like to support, but not sure how, please write to me, we can figure something out.
Like I have always maintained, I am not ‘anti’ anything except the endless derivative forms of misogyny. I am a woman, an adult human female, I can’t identify out of my sex class nor my oppression. But I can challenge it, resist and fight it. I choose to fight; even if it helps just a single girl child.
Watch the trailer of Not my cup of T here: