May 18th, 2017
On 15 April 2014, the Supreme Court took a progressive democratic leap by recognising the third gender as an identifiable gender. Sonia is one such brave soul; she decided to follow her destined path to happiness. However, society failed her at every step of the way.
Born in Hyderabad, Sonia was assigned the male gender at birth. Born into a quintessentially large Indian family with 6 sisters and 2 brothers, Sonia was never given much personal attention from her parents. She had a happy childhood and developed a passion for dancing at a young age. However, due to the typically narrow Indian mindset, her parents were not supportive of what is considered to be a predominantly female art form. Her father passed away when she was only 7, but Sonia’s restrictions abided. As Sonia grew up, she felt trapped in a male body, unable to express her true self to the world. Her mother encouraged her to play outdoor sports like all other boys her age did, activities that supposedly signify masculinity and dominance. Little did Sonia know, that her adult life would be haunted by a malicious gang rape, and a traumatic acid attack.
When Sonia was 12, her uncle introduced her to a few members of the transgender community at a community event. Sonia was fascinated and felt drawn to the community. She watched them dancing and felt a shiver of electricity go down her spine as she realised that she had finally found her community. Soon, she began to visit them often and started joining them when they went dancing at important events, housewarmings, and weddings for money.
Unfortunately, one day, Sonia returned home to find her brother in a fit of rage. One of his friends had noticed Sonia dancing at a wedding with the transgender community. Her brother noticed some unwashed makeup on Sonia’s face and dragged her to the bathroom, where he forcefully cut her hair and long nails, hurling verbal abuses throughout the process. He began to beat her up, throwing punches on her face, stomach, back and more.
She was in intense pain and depressed with how she had been treated. She wanted to commit suicide.
Her mother stepped in for her and told the rest of the family to accept Sonia just the way she is. Her mother stood her ground firmly and sternly told her children that Sonia was free to live her life on her own terms.
Sonia decided to leave her house and go live with the transgender community. She lived with them for two years. She had never felt happier. At 15, she returned home for a few months as a completely transformed person. She now identified as a woman and was happy, cheerful and thriving. However, the social stigma in her community compelled her to go back and live with the transgender community because she no longer wanted her family to suffer as a result of her choices.
She continued to dance and earn money to send home to her mother and younger sister. The rest of her siblings were all married, and none of them supported their now ailing mother. Sonia would earn money and send it home to her mother who had been making a meagre Rs.2,000 a month as a babysitter.
When Sonia turned 20, she was approached by a young man called Nadim who offered her potential events to dance at for making some extra cash. Since Sonia was single-handedly taking care of her mother and sister now, she gratefully accepted the offer and exchanged phone numbers. He began calling her continuously, and Sonia started feeling uncomfortable. At last, Sonia made it clear that she only wanted him to contact her when he had a job for her. At this point, Nadim confessed his true feelings for Sonia and stated that he liked her.
With all the responsibilities Sonia had at that point in her life, falling in love was out of the question. However, Nadim consistently proved that he was there for her over and over again and as the two became acquainted, their relationship was now that of friends. However, that friendship did not last for long because Nadim began demanding a higher and higher cut from Sonia’s paychecks.
If she refused him the money, he would publicly humiliate her by following her to work events, speaking ill of her to her neighbours and threatening her friends and family. He became a menace not just to her, but also to her career and to all those she cared about. He even went to Sonia’s mother and sister and hurled verbal abuses at them.
Eventually, Sonia got worried and went to the police. However, Nadim had powerful connections and the case never went forward. Sonia felt threatened and sad because members of her own community began to shun her because of Nadim’s constant harassment. Soon after, Sonia saw a ray of hope when Nadim called her to apologise for the past.
Grateful, she agreed to meet him at his request and move forward positively. He picked her up after work, and as Sonia entered the car, Nadim introduced her to his friend who was also present. Sonia was slightly confused because Nadim had never brought a friend along to meet her earlier, but she politely said hello.
They started driving for what Sonia thought would be to a coffee shop or something but after a while; Nadim suggested that they go to a friend’s farmhouse for a party.
Sonia resisted at first but eventually agreed upon constant insistence. She did not wish to cause a further rift between Nadim and herself since he was trying to make amends and she desperately needed him to stop bothering her. She was at his mercy. Once they reached the farmhouse, things were friendly at first, but soon after, Nadim and his friend began misbehaving.
They began to abuse Sonia, physically threatened her and when she tried to get away, attempted to threaten her with death threats. Both of them then proceeded to rape Sonia.
Sonia attempted to fight them, but the violent rape was brutal, and she was powerless. She felt numb and was still in shock when they put her back in the car and drove her back to the city. They then stopped the car one kilometre away from where she was supposed to be dropped back and viciously poured a bottle of acid all over her. As the acid began to spread through her skin, she began to scream in agony.
They threw her out of the car and drove away.
She screamed for help, but no one came to her rescue.
In intense, agonising pain, she found her way home and then lost consciousness. Other members from her transgender community took her to a government hospital. She woke up to find that she had been covered with 54% burns on the right side of her body. Her ear, face, neck, shoulder and chest have been permanently damaged.
Sonia needs your help
She now lives with her mother and sister, since she can no longer support herself through dancing as a result of her injuries. Sonia today wishes to run a small business of her own.
Right after the government passed the law to recognise the third gender, The Times of India published an article that estimated an official count for the third gender in India to be approximately 4.9 lakh, although the actual number is expected to be much higher.
Sonia is a highly talented young woman who belongs to this community yet has suffered a cruel fate of blow. It is time for us to stand up for her and the entire transgender community of India.We can start by helping Sonia today.
To help Sonia, please contact Make Love Not Scars on either of these links:
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