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Rediff.com  » Getahead » Why this could be the marriage of the century

Why this could be the marriage of the century

May 03, 2018 09:57 IST

On May 8, Bollywood will witness Sonam Kapoor's dream wedding to Anand Ahuja.
On May 19, the world will witness Prince Harry's wedding to Meghan Markle.
But the wedding that will take place on May 10 between Surya and Ishan is the one that will make history.
The glowing bride-to-be speaks to Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

Ishan and Surya

IMAGE: Ishan and Surya are looking forward to their wedding on May 10. All photographs: Kind courtesy Surya

When 31-year-old Surya marries 32-year-old Ishan on May 10 in Thiruvanathapuram, history will be created.

For this is not just another marriage between a man and a woman; it is the first transsexual marriage that is going to be registered in Kerala.

Surya was born a man and Ishan was a woman when he was born.

There was a time when Kerala society ridiculed and insulted Surya, but today she is a popular face on television and a well-known transgender activist.

Ishan's story is no different.

It has not been an easy journey for both, but, today, they are happy and eagerly waiting for their D-Day.

As their countdown continues, Surya narrates how she overcame towering challenges to reach where she is today.

Surya takes a selfie

IMAGE: Surya is a well-known face in Kerala today.

Tough childhood

The Kerala I grew up as a child was very different from the Kerala of today; 20, 25 years back, nobody talked about transgenders openly, nobody knew who they were.

Society made fun of those they could not comprehend. It was only recently, around less than five years ago, that people started hearing the term transgender.

Like every other transgender person, my childhood also was also extremely traumatic and difficult.

I was the second son of my parents and, before I understood myself, people around me had noticed the femininity in me.

In school, when I was teased for behaving like a girl, I wondered whether I was really a girl. I looked at myself on the mirror and all I could see was a boy standing there.

Naturally, I was confused about who I really was.

My identity crisis began when I began seeing the girl who was trapped inside a boy's body.

Slowly, I started realising that I was not really Vinod, the second son of my parents, but their daughter.

Once this realisation dawned, my life became a wreck; my studies were affected.

I was in an emotional turmoil. I couldn't understand myself.

I was educated in a boy's school where I felt I was the only girl; even the teachers were male.

I couldn't look at the boys or teachers without feeling ashamed.

When boys tortured me emotionally and physically, I could only suffer in silence.

Although I was good in dance, music and all the other cultural activities, my co-students did not appreciate the prizes I won; instead, they ridiculed me for dancing Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi.

Everybody mocked at me, saying Usha's son dances like a girl!

In fact, I used to tell my mother that she should marry me off to a man.

Not a single person could help me come out of the turmoil I was experiencing.

I had not heard of transgenders and thought I was the only one in the world who was struggling with this kind of conflict.

I didn't know why I was born like this.

Every day, every moment, every second of my life was a torture and I had to struggle and fight the demons inside and outside to become who I am today.

The journey from Vinod to Surya has been extremely tough and difficult.

The turning point in my life happened when my family went on a pilgrimage.

Near the Kozhikode bus stand, I saw a person who was like me for the first time in my life.

She came near me and addressed me as a girl. That was when I came to know there were people like me in this world.

She pushed a paper on which a phone number was written into my hand and went away.

Their wedding card

IMAGE: The wedding invitation

Escaping from home

My studies were affected by the emotional turmoil I was going through and I failed Class 10.

I decided to leave home and told my family I had found a job in Kozhikode.

Despite wandering around the city for days with that phone number in my hand, I could not locate the person who gave it to me.

For 15 days, I roamed around hungry, slept on the pavement and even ate food from the dustbins outside hotels.

I didn't see a single human being who was willing to help me.

I saw only men who looked at me with lust, who only desired my body.

With no money, no place to sleep and barely any food to eat, I became a sex worker.

The first time someone used my body, I didn't know I was becoming a sex worker.

A man took pity on me and bought me food. After I finished eating, he pushed some money into my hand and said he wanted to have sex with me.

I felt then that it was a good way to survive in this hostile world.

There were many days when I wondered why I had to sleep on the pavement, eat food from garbage bins and sell my body when I had everything at home!

It was only because nobody understood the woman inside me, it was only because society ridiculed and rejected me.

Dressing as a woman

When I decided to return home after 2, 3 years, I was sure about one thing; I would not hide my identity any more.

I started wearing women's dresses without worrying about what others would say.

The days of living alone in Kozhikode had given me the courage to face anything.

In 2005, I was arrested by the police for walking around in a sari. They called my mother and told her that people like me should be banished.

They said I did not deserve to live and that she should kill me.

Those harsh words did not weaken me; they made me stronger and I decided, from that day on, I would only wear women's clothes.

Surya

IMAGE: Surya has become a symbol of hope for the transgender community.

Mimicry... and a career

I decided to make a living using the abilities God gave me -- acting and mimicry. I joined a group of male mimicry artists who dressed like women and did mimicry performances.

That was a big turning point in my life.

My career boomed. I got television programmes and, in no time, became a well-known artist in Kerala.

It was television that gave me my identity as Surya. I won the Asianet award for best comedy artiste.

My popularity as Surya increased awareness in Kerala about the transgender community. They realised we also could lead a normal life and work like normal people.

I decided to change my physical identity to that of a woman as I wanted everyone to accept the woman in me.

I also wanted people to come to terms with the fact that there are people who are born like us.

We have every right to live in this society and it is for the society to accept us as we are.

People started recognising and accepting me because I appear on TV almost every day.

I am happy that, because of my work, society has accepted not just me but my entire community.

I gained the courage to assert myself when community-based organisations started their work in Kerala as part of the HIV eradication programme.

They gave me the strength to raise my voice against injustice and take firm decisions.

Every time I was insulted and humiliated, I became stronger. I fought for my place in society every time I was denied something, like when I was not allowed to use the women's toilet at a public place and pushed aside in a hospital saying I could not fill the form as there was no column for transgenders.

I even voted as a woman in the last elections.

Today, I am a member of the Kerala Transgender Justice Board and a TG resource person for the state.

It is to our credit that we were able to come out with a policy for transgenders in the state.

The loving couple

IMAGE: In a few days, Ishan and Surya will be wed.

A wedding in the air

I used to meet Ishan quite often during community gatherings. He was also a member of the Justice Board.

He was born a woman, but became a man when he realised he was a man inside.

Like all of us, his life too was a huge struggle.

Like I am a trans-woman, Ishan is a trans-man.

One day, he proposed to me and said he wanted to take me home as his wife.

I have always dreamt of myself as a bride in a red sari and, on May 10, this dream will be realised.

The dreams of many, many, transgenders in our community are going to be realised through me.

I have been a fighter all my life and will continue to fight for my rights whenever they were denied to me.

When I decided to get married, I was told only a man and woman can get married.

I asked why a transgender person could not get married.

I chose a man from my own community and we are going to register our marriage as man and woman.

I think this is the first transgender marriage that is going to be registered as the marriage between a man and a woman.

As far as I know, till now, no trans-man and trans-woman have been legally married.

My next dream is to give birth to my child.

After all, I have reached this far; from a male to a female and, now, getting married to the man I love.

Who knows, in my lifetime itself, science may find ways to make transgender women conceive and give birth to a child!

Shobha Warrier / Rediff.com