My Kids Have 2 Dads: Trans Man Petitions TN High Court for Gender-Neutral Norms
Tarun filed a petition at the Madras High Court requesting the gender-neutral term ‘parent’ be included in passports
“My kids have accepted their two fathers but the legal battle for acknowledging me as their parent is far from over.”
After four long decades of harassment, a marriage, two kids, threats of black magic, a divorce and several gender affirmative surgeries, Tarun* (name changed) is finally free to be himself.
In an attempt to publicly embrace his identity, the 42-year-old filed a writ petition on 13 December at the Madras High Court requesting that the gender-neutral term ‘parent’ be included in Indian passports instead of the gender specific terms ‘mother’ or ‘father’ so that his name can be included in the passports of his minor kids.
Here is the story of Tarun, who was assigned female at birth and is now a father of two fighting to be identified as a parent.
Experiencing Gender Dysphoria as a Kid
Tarun was assigned female at birth, but he began identifying as a male when he was two years old.
“The first time, I wrapped a towel as a dhoti and went up to my Amma and told her, 'Look Ma, look at your son.' She was very dismissive and told me to change immediately. At the age of four, I came out to my mother again saying, 'I am your boy. Why don't you give me another name and make me your son?' My mother was not able to even process this.”Tarun*(name changed)
Tarun explained that his family conformed to orthodox definitions of gender identities and so he faced a lot of discrimination. His anxieties manifested when he went to school and felt uncomfortable using the girls’ bathroom.
“I would completely avoid going to the bathroom and soon I started having stomach and urinary issues. I had to discontinue school for over one and a half years. I didn't know how to even explain this confusion in my head,” he told The Quint.
He was subject to sexual abuse and assault by his father’s friends and even the milkman, and when he spoke up about it, he was allegedly belittled by his mother.
“Instead of believing me, she justified the actions of the perpetrators. And this traumatised me. So I chose to handle this by involving myself in sports. I would play games all day. I would go to class only to give my attendance; I would even eat in the playground as I didn't have any friends. And at the age of 10-11, I knew I was attracted to beautiful girls,” he said.
Loving Parenthood but not Relating to Womanhood
Societal pressure began weighing in on Tarun when his two siblings got married. Tarun finally gave in and got married at the age of 26, in 2005.
“It was an arranged marriage and we lived together in Chennai and Pune. It was only when we went and lived alone in Singapore, did we become very good friends. And then once again people pressured us to have kids. For the sake of my family, I delivered two children,” he said.
While Tarun felt alien in a woman’s body, he said the most gratifying experience he has had so far was giving birth to his kids.
“When I felt the kicks in my stomach and the thought of having life grow inside me made me feel euphoric. The feeling of being a parent helped me deal with dysphoria.”Tarun
Breaking the Cocoon to Finally Be the Real Self
During his married life, Tarun resorted to using his male identity online and speaking to females that made him “feel more comfortable.”
“This dual life eventually got to me and then I realised I had been living only to please my family. So I came out in 2018 to my then-spouse and kids. First, he dismissed it and when I brought it up again he advised that I speak to a psychologist. I was then introduced to the concept of gender dysphoria and thus began my transition to becoming the real me,” he told The Quint.
It was heartwarming to hear Tarun recount how overwhelmed he felt when his kids accepted him as their father.
“I told my kids that from that day onwards, they should call me only Tarun and use the pronouns 'he' and 'him' as I was their father. The five-year-old readily agreed and said, 'Okay, Tarun.' But my 7-year-old had questions; I showed her animated videos and eventually she too understood. Finally the transition happened from Amma to Appa. And then I thought to myself 'This is all the validation that I need.'"Tarun
In October 2019, the couple filed for divorce on mutual grounds citing gender dysphoria and this was reportedly the first of its kind in the country.
During the same week that he filed for divorce, he traveled with his ex-spouse and kids to Mumbai for the gender affirmative surgeries.
“When we were traveling to Mumbai, an elderly couple asked my kids who we were. The kids introduced us as their fathers. When they asked where is the mother, my children said 'He is my mother.' They got the pronouns right and at that moment, I felt unexplainable joy,” he added.
Within a week, Tarun was back to cooking delicious meals for his kids and his family helped him through the recovery.
However, the acceptance is still limited only to his home. He has faced exploitation in bathrooms, airport security queues and has even been told by his family that black magic could cure him.
Today, the 42-year-old microbiology graduate is a trained psychologist, working as an affirmative counsellor.
Gender Neutral 'Parents' to Replace 'Mother' & 'Father'?
Tarun has now transitioned into a male and has changed his name on all government approved identity cards. He wishes to travel abroad with his kids for work but the present official records don’t permit him to do so.
“My kids' passports have expired and I cannot now be called their mother. And I can't be labelled as father because that would mean depriving the rights of the birth father. So I have requested the court to acknowledge my parental rights. This would enable people of different gender identities to be recognised as parents,” he said.
Advocate Arun who is representing Tarun said that they researched for over a month as this was the first of its kind in the country.
The 64-page petition read, "An article published in Independent online (IOL) titled “ Beautiful and Evocative Transgender Man Documents Birth Of Baby” says about the Israeli High Court of Justice (2017) accepting a trans man’s request to be registered as father in his biological child’s birth certificate. Gender neutral “parents” will replace references to “fathers” and/or “mothers” This solution may also prove suitable for trans parents seeking changes in their children’s birth certificates that conform with their gender identity."
The court heard their case on 16 December and requested the Ministry of External Affairs and Regional Passport office, Chennai to respond within eight weeks. The next hearing has been scheduled for 7 January 2022.
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