LGBTQIA+,  Sexuality,  Voices of Pride

Voices of Pride: Valerie’s Journey

This blogpost mentions bullying and gender dysphoria which might be triggering

A few years ago, if someone would have asked me whether I was a trans female, I would have said no because of all the past bullying I had experienced. I had a feminine voice and very little body hair, which really never bothered me personally, but I became very tough when someone used to pass comments behind my back. It was all in jest but they never understood that things like that can remain with someone for a lifetime. 

Once, someone even dared to ask me “tu m****a hai kya”! I asked him why he thought so but he didn’t have an answer for that. Another thing which made me so unsure about myself was that I had zero education about the queer community. I really wish school had taught me what sexuality meant, how not to judge anyone or how to behave towards queer people. I came to know about the LGBT+ spectrum when I was in the 11th std, and at that time, I didn’t know what it meant to be a proud queer.

I never used to like playing sports with the guys . Instead I preferred to stay home. I never used to associate with the male gender but I never took that seriously – at least not until I was out studying in another city, and where masculinity was measured according to my body, hair and the number of girlfriends I had. It was quite weird because I didn’t fit into their criteria, and I only started distancing myself from everyone in my physical surroundings. 

I started meeting new people online as no one would be able to see and hear me. They were not connected in real life at all. It was all virtual so I had nothing to bother. One fine day I was talking to a stranger from another country and we really connected and shared a lot of experiences with each other. 

That’s the first time I opened up about my feelings. I shared all my childhood experiences of how I used to play with my mom’s makeup instead of toys when I was alone, or how I tried female clothes just out of curiosity while folding them. When they probed further, I told them I had wanted to have breasts since I was 14 and I didn’t know why. 

I first came to know about the “transgender” when they told me that I might be trans. That conversation ended and the only thing that came to my mind was that I’ve only heard the term “LGBT” and did not know the real meaning of any of those terms. I had neglected it because I was really scared of being associated with those names. 

Once I was alone, I again tried dressing up, this time I was a teenager, not a kid, and when I looked at myself in the mirror it felt so good!  I had so much confidence. I had never experienced it before. It really felt like me. But with that confidence also came all the past bullying and I chose not to tell anyone. I kept it as my dark secret and I moved on with life.

I went to Mumbai for my college and my testosterone started hitting me hard. Earlier, I hadn’t experienced any feelings of dysphoria. But now my voice changed, which I liked before because it was feminine, my body hair started growing and I got a mustache. I felt like this was not me. I started hating myself. I started getting stressed about my voice, moustache, and that feeling of not having anything feminine. 

Still, I choose not to share anything because my first landlord was very homophobic. He used to make fun of a bisexual roommate he had before me. At the same time, one person called me “shemale”. It came from nowhere. That person didn’t even know about my hidden identity.  I didn’t know what shemale meant and I googled to find out. I was totally shocked by the result. By that time, I had accepted what my identity was, but tht only made me fear sharing it with the whole world. I kept all my dysphoria to myself and it resulted really badly. 

I lost all my feelings, I was very depressed. I knew where all the distress was coming from. That’s when I decided that I will come out to my family when I’m financially independent so that if something goes wrong, at least I won’t have to suffer from financial backlash. I was living a life where I wasn’t happy, because I wasn’t myself. 

Then came the pandemic in March 2020, the virus was spreading and we were all in our homes locked with our thoughts. In June my dysphoria started getting really bad. I started getting panic attacks and sleepless nights. I used to forcefully try to shut my eyes to fall asleep but I used to wake up every day at 4.00 am. There was nothing I could do to keep my mental health in a good place. 

One day I was feeling so much heaviness in my chest that I had to tell someone. That’s when I came out to my sister. It was a long 5 hour conversation. She asked not to tell the family. She was afraid that the people in extended family would react. She suggested that I shift abroad and start a new life. I almost felt like I was committing  a crime for just being myself. I was totally broken into pieces. I could understand where that fear was coming from because I had experienced it before. But this meant I was in the closet, again. 

One day, I was talking to my trans friends who suggested that I reach out to  an LGBT+ organization for help. That one piece of advice changed everything. I searched online and got in touch with “The Humsafar Trust” and shared with them how I was feeling. They connected me to a counselor and I finally started getting professional help. They helped me a lot to get out of the phase I was stuck in and after a few months, I decided to come out to my parents because it wasn’t easy for me to carry everything inside. 

After completing my 5th semester exams, I finally came out to my parents on 23rd December 2020. It was really shocking for them. They were not fully educated in terms of LGBT+ but I was glad they chose to get educated and were not being phobic towards me. For that, the Sweekar Parents Support Group really helped me! They gave me contact details of a trans female and they helped me a lot in making my parents understand. 

It almost took 3 months but I was really happy when one day mom herself came to me to talk about trans. It was great seeing that she took the time she required and tried to understand what I’ve been going through. Still, my family finds it difficult to address me and use my preferred pronouns but I know that they will get used to it. 

Finally, I started my HRT (Hormone replacement therapy) in May and I came out on social media on 1st June and this is my first Pride since coming out! It has been a long 7 years journey of acceptance, to actually start the journey itself. A full rollercoaster ride. It took a lot from me in terms of my mental health and took a lot of time to realize how it is affecting and destroying me from inside. 

Valerie (she/they) is  student in her  final year of hotel management. She is from the small city  of Bharuch in Gujarat.  Food, music and travel define her, she can spend her  whole life with these three things. She's always had a deep connection with food. She loves visiting new places and learning about their food and culture. She enjoys taking spontaneous trips on her scooty.
One of her  biggest dreams is to start at Cafe which would run by trans or queer people.

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