‘I Won’t Pull the Trigger, But I Wish I Didn’t Exist’
“I will always just be Leyla, transgender.”
On a warm April evening, I was diagnosed with a disease that doesn’t have a cure. The doctor prescribed a few medicines in an attempt to reduce the effects of this ailment. This gave my family hope. A lot of hope. But I knew too well that I can never, ever be cured.
This disease has become a part of me. It defines me now. This disease has always stayed with me, and will go with me wherever I go. It will haunt me and my loved ones, it will destroy my family, and it will ruin me completely.
The only way to fix it is to destroy the body that hosts this dangerous disease – and that’s when I put a gun to my head... but I won’t pull the trigger just yet.
You must be wondering what this unbearable and dangerous disease is, but let me build some context for you first.
I’m Leyla, 24 years old. I write, I work in marketing and I’ve studied at one of the finer colleges in India. Ever since I could make sense of the world, I always carefully hid all symptoms. I wouldn’t tell anyone about how I felt, how it hurt me, how every second of every day was a laborious attempt to smile and laugh and play while I suppressed an unbearable pain.
Sometimes I’d feel a disturbing restlessness, and this consistent uneasiness was so overpowering that I wished I could just fade away. I would be so deeply disgusted that I’d pray and beg the forces of the universe for just one miracle. I would wish that I had never existed. I didn’t want anyone to feel hurt if I ever pulled the trigger, but even being alive, I’d hurt my loved ones, because they’d be helpless to fix me.
What use is such a life, whose existence and destruction both would bring only despair and sadness for my loved ones? They can’t be happy while I’m alive, and they won’t be happy if I’m gone. And that’s my reality. I will never experience love, and I’ve begun to be disgusted by myself too.
Wherever I go, I stand out because I carry with me this disease – and I’m an outcast. I am someone you see walking on streets but don’t smile at, I’m someone you feel scared of. I’m the person you would never consider for a job, and you wouldn’t even give me a penny when I’m eventually rendered homeless and begging.
I’m the one you keep your children away from, I’m the one you don’t want to talk to, touch or hug. I disgust you and scare you so much that you’ll even hit me sometimes. You’ll throw sticks and stones and shoo me away like you shoo away a dog. Sometimes, you’ll look at me and keep staring to figure out what’s wrong with me. You would even take me to a corner and bend me over but you wouldn’t dare be seen with me. You’d come over to my place after dark and you’d leave before morning.
You won’t make love to me, or cuddle, you’d just f*** me and the next day, when you pass by me on the streets, you’d mock me along with your friends. Once a year, when some TV debate happens about people like me, you would argue that I need education and jobs and empowerment, but you’d bully me in school and your job application forms won’t have any space for me either.
You’d talk about kindness but you wouldn’t befriend me. You won’t let me in your homes, you won’t even let me use a toilet and if you’re the system, you’d even rape me. You’d rape me in a police station and film me and threaten me. Someday, I’ll be found dead and you won’t care.
One in three people like me end up dead. Some are killed, and some pull the trigger.
And my only disease is that I was born different.
That I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.
You would console me by telling me it’s not a disease, but the psychiatrist would disagree. He would even offer a cure. Some psychiatrists do understand though. But do you know that even the friendly LGBT shrinks must first label me to help me? They will pick up their DSM and look through it to find the appropriate label. Gender identity disorder. Some call it dysphoria now.
You would reduce me to the word ‘transgender’, just like the shrink reduced me to a disease. There is no difference between you and him.
Our introductions and obituaries will always read: ‘Lalit, successful businessman’ ‘Laila, mother of two and scientist’ and ‘Leyla, transgender’. I wouldn’t be a writer, marketing professional, or even a mother. I would just be Leyla, transgender.
Your schools, houses, job applications, toilets, hospitals don’t have a place for me. I don’t exist for you and you never felt the need to create any space for me. You’ll ‘respect women’ but you’d discard me like you get rid of a cockroach from schools, homes, hospitals and toilets.
Many psychiatrists would attempt to cure me, to fix me, to convert me. But that wouldn’t kill me. How can you even kill someone who doesn’t exist in your spaces?
That’s who I am. An alien who doesn’t exist, and that’s why I want to fade away.
That’s why I’d put a gun to my head – but I wouldn’t pull the trigger, in the hope that maybe one day, I can say “I’m glad I’m alive to see this day.”
(Leyla Shah is a pseudonym used by the author.)
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