“What makes you like this? You are born a girl, remain like a girl. Why do you want to go against nature?” These are some of the intrusive, insensitive questions that Jaison got at the age of 13, when he realised that he wasn’t supposed to be a woman. “I got cognizant of hormonal issues occurring in my body,” he says. Unsurprisingly, Jaison, when he came out to his parents as a teenager, did not receive the kind of support he wanted and had to spend a considerable amount of time suppressing his true self.
Repressed for a long time, Jaison took the drastic step of running away from his family and transitioning at the age of 26. Along with his partner, Sukanya, he settled in the Madhuri district of Tamil Nadu, where he began transitioning. But within months, they found themselves short of money, which led to Sukanya taking up a job at a shop that earned them INR 4,000/month. Jaison too started looking for jobs. He had secured a position as a helper in a garment shop, but his employment was terminated immediately when the owners saw he identified as a trans person as per his identification card. Sri Lakshmi Pengal Munnetra Sangam (SLPMS) supported Jaison and Sukanya to establish their own business with technical and financal support. With this not only were they able to establish their own business, but the successful handling of a business has also helped Jaison’s family accept him as he is. The support of friends and family is one of the most important things that a trans person can get in life, Jaison believes. To his other closeted trans friends, who frequently express their desire to run away from their homes, Jaison says, “It is hard to change society’s perception of you. It is better to start from home and try to change the way a few people view you. ” While societal support is important, material support is essential for any trans person to live without fear of discrimination. Jaison thinks that a shelter home for trans men is the need of the hour. “They have a shelter home for trans women in Madurai. Having such a shelter for trans men like me would help a lot of them to live in relative peace and happiness and build a solid base for their life ahead.” Jaison’s Fancy Store is located near a school and stocks up on imitation jewelry, stationary, sweetmeats etc. He is currently working towards repaying his loan. Jaison is also a volunteer at a local hospital, specifically treating and working with the trans community. He now supports others going through similar situations find a place to belong and be accepted into. Amidst a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, having a sense of stability is essential, especially for the vulnerable communities who are often left to fend for themselves.