On December 1, 26-year-old Aryan Pasha from Delhi created history by bagging a prize at a national bodybuilding championship in India. Of course, for today’s gym-savvy youth, participating and winning at a bodybuilding competition is hardly a big deal, but for Pasha, it was different.
First transman wins bodybuilding competition
As a second-prize winner in the Men’s Physique (short) category of Musclemania India, Pasha, a lawyer by profession, became the first transman in the country to do so. His recent accomplishment is a result of hours of slogging at the gym, a strict routine and even stricter lifestyle.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Aryan, who just turned 27, said that he has always been interested in all things sports and athletics. “I was a speed skater at school and then I briefly played basketball,” he said. Bodybuilding has always sparked interest in him and in 2014, he started weight training. However, a quest to compete in championships did not occur to Pasha then.
What started out as an effort to add bulk to his lean figure, slowly turned into a passion that he could not live without. He first had his eyes set on an all-trans bodybuilding competition in the USA, called the Trans FitCon. However, failure to secure a visa landed him on Musclemania 2018.
Months of hard work
“In 2017, I wanted to take part in Musclemania, however, when I was training, I was diagnosed with dengue, which is why I had to sit back a year,” he informed. The struggle of rebuilding his lost physique was even more challenging. However, with hours hard work at the gym bore fruitful results for him at the end. A determined Aryan even left his lucrative job as a lawyer to pursue his dreams, head on.
Even after months of training, Aryan’s body took longer to show results as compared to his other cisgender (a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex) peers. He said, “I got disheartened at first, my body was not responding, however, I kept going forward and did not lose hope.”
For four months, he spent six hours at his gym, training to build a body that he has always dreamt of. Even as his peers told him that he was not ready, Aryan somewhere, deep down knew that it was time. However, there was one more bump on his journey to become a champion. Musclemania is a natural bodybuilding competition which bars the use of hormone supplements, including testosterone – which Pasha has to administer every 21 days as a part of his post-surgery hormone replacement therapy. While the organisers allowed him to compete in the men’s category, they asked him to skip the last dosage before the competition. Little did he know that he will leave the venue creating history.
Life before transitioning
Aryan, who was born as Nyla in 1991, realised right from a very early age that he did not identify as a girl. He said, “I have always had more male friends than females and I used to wear boy clothes.” What came as a blessing to Aryan – something that transpersons lack most times – was his parents’ unconditional love and support. Although a victim of bullying in his teenage years, his family’s love and emotional support contributed to Aryan’s unwavering grit. At a time when there weren’t many openly-accepting transmen around in India, let alone in Delhi, Aryan’s mother introduced the idea of a sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) to him.
He said, “I was 17, and spent a year or so researching and reaching out to other transmen in India. My family even looked for doctors to start my transformation.” His journey towards finally attaining the self that he identified with, began once he turned 18.
Aryan, who played in the boy’s basketball team, had to hide his identity earlier. No one apart from his coach knew who he was. He was living in constant fear of being called out or bullied. After transforming himself, Aryan finally felt free. His new identity as a man gave him the confidence to pursue his dreams.
Years after he first began his transformation, Aryan became a ray of hope and an advocate of sorts for other transmen. He and his family opened their home and their hearts for others like Aryan who needed emotional support and post-surgery care. He said, “Many people like me come to my house. They do not have the support of their families like I did.”
An advocate for inclusivity and equality, Aryan urged the government to support and push for all-inclusive sports tournaments – something that Indian and international events lack at large. He strives to work harder to represent his community at world stages. He said, “Come March, I will be competing at International bodybuilding and fitness federation (IBFF) in both the transmen and men categories.”
With hard work and sheer perseverance, Aryan Pasha continues to inspire many. The Logical Indian community applauds his achievements and wishes him luck for his future endeavour.