Interview with Namitha Marimuthu - Part 2

Monika: Apart from being a successful beauty pageant queen, you are an actress too. You debuted with the role of Priya in "Naadodigal 2" by Samuthirakani (2020). Did you like it? Can we expect more films with you?
Namitha: Priya from "Naadodigal 2" is a real life story of a successful trans woman who becomes the police inspector in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. I was moved by the director’s choice of story and I agreed to do the script. In addition, the Indian cinema has always portrayed trans individuals in a negative light but this story really changed the opinions of society. Yes, I’m a full time actress and model. I'm working on a lot of projects now. But I am looking forward to working on more stories about trans women’s empowerment.
Monika: We are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Namitha: Yes, cosmetic surgeries help many people to gain their self-confidence. And the so-called cosmetic aesthetics is a mythology created many years back by men who run the fashion industry. That's why, as a woman empowering other transwomen, I support beauty in all sizes, shapes, and colours. I advocate a stronger and individual empowerment of women in society. And I request each of us to love the way we are and look for inner beauty in ourselves.

On the cover of Out of Focus Magazine.

Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Namitha: I want to be the example for many women, and I do believe each individual is different in their own ways with unique identity. I do follow role models but just as an inspiration, not as a copy of anyone. Each of us is different with hidden talents. So be your own kind of role model!
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Namitha: Yes, when my parents wanted me to change back to a man I was sent to fitness centers and clubs at a young age. There I saw a beautiful transwoman opposite my fitness center. Her name was Miss Malaika, the Miss International Queen India representative 2011. I was really scared to even start a conversation with her, so I followed her by looking from the window of my fitness center. I didn’t stop going to the fitness center for a reason. 
Later after 3 months of watching her from far away I gained the confidence to talk to her and explain about me. I told her I want to be a woman soon and my parents were trying to make me a man by giving me medication. Through her I met many other trans community friends.
Weeks later I started spending more time with my community people after 18 years of isolation. At the time when I came out as a transgender India was not even aware of LGBTQ community; it was really hard for any LGBTQ teenager to survive in this country. Many teenagers faced many problems, and they couldn’t make real friends with whom they could share their real feelings, so many LGBTQ teenagers ended up making bad decisions like suicide.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Namitha: India is really providing amazing opportunities to transwomen in various work fields, from a police officer to a politician. The number of educated transwomen in India needs to improve to get many more opportunities as well.
On the other hand, we also have transgenders who suffer every day for a meal because of lack of parental support and discrimination by the society. Trans individuals stop schooling and they are pushed to begging and prostitution.
In addition, our government recently passed a bill to educate transgenders at school level with gender change in certification and they can study at school being officially transgender. The Teacher Association will be sensitized about LGBTQ friendly schooling and special counselling will be provided to parents as well for inclusive LGBTQ society.

"India is really providing amazing opportunities to
transwomen in various work fields, from
a police officer to a politician."
Photo by: @chandrubharathy and @focuzstudios.

Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, we lose our families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Namitha: The price I paid is too high because my parents started torturing me at a very young age. By the age of 13 I had my first surgery to remove extra breast fat. As my family is fully educated and has doctors, my parents had easy access to my treatments. By the age of 16 I was sent to a mental rehabilitation center for 6 months and I was living my life with people who really had problems. After treatment for 6 months, I was taken home to check for any changes. But my hormones started working even more and my feminine behaviour was too obvious for anyone.
Monika: Your parents did not give up?
Namitha: Not at all. Again by the age of 17 I was sent to a different rehabilitation center, this time it was for drug addicts. People were moving naked with no sense of consciousness and the center provided drugs to make us sleep. Mostly we slept there, and after 4 months I was sent home.
When I was 18, again I was sent to rehabilitation, which offered me to change my identity. I was only going through tortures and humiliation. This time I decided to run away from the rehabilitation center, as it was too painful mentally and physically. I made friends with the floor warden and I started gaining his trust. He made me help him in the duty he had and I skipped taking tablets, which he used to give to each of us there. I was on the third floor and for many days I was trying to break my toilet window with the help of tools from the warden. He was not aware of my skipping tablets or breaking down the window.
Monika: And?
Namitha: On one fine day I completely broke down the window and after midnight I jumped from the third floor to a nearby tree. With the help of the tree I landed with less damage to my body. I was not aware of the date or time, I walked more than 80km to reach my grandparents’ house and told them about the pain I was going through. I initially told them I would get ready for marriage with a girl to stay home.
As my plan was working, I was home at last. In addition, I threatened them that I would commit suicide if I was sent to any rehabilitation center again. On the last day of Gaṇeśa Chaturthī (a Hindu festival celebrating the arrival of Ganesh to earth from Kailash Parvat with his mother Goddess Parvati/Gauri), we all went to the beach to dissolve the Ganesha idol after 10 days of Pooja. I told my parents I would be going to the beach with my cousins and came out of my house and ran to Goa.
Even before that I used to go to Bangalore and Mumbai, which is considered as heaven for transgenders but it was all fake news. Transgenders who go there have no guarantee to live peacefully, either in Mumbai or any other state. My parents didn’t leave me alone, and they were chasing me everywhere, and they finally managed to find me. As no one was able to find me, I was living in Goa for 5 days, and then I made a call to my transgender friends in my hometown and I was enquiring about my parents. However, in the search for me, my parents abused and harassed my transgender friends to get the details of my location.

"Educate yourself, educate each other because
education is the source of power."
Salon Partner: @marieclaire.mylapore.

Monika: Did you do anything to prevent your parents from chasing you?
Namitha: As soon as it happened, with the help of SAHODARAN, a non-profitable LGBTQ organization, I raised a complaint against my parents in Madras High Court in 2010. This was the first ever case in the history of Indian transgender rights. With the help of the Commissioner of Chennai Goa Police, I was protected and flew to Chennai where my case was heard at the High Court of Madras. After a very thorough judgement, the court ruled a legal separation from my parents as I was already 19 years old at that time.
So I got my legal separation and started staying with my friends in the same street right next to where my parents lived. Even after all this legal separation my parents didn’t leave me alone, they harassed me and my transgender friends. Anywhere we went, no house would be given to any transgender person for rent or lease. Hence I needed to stay in small motels to survive the night.
Monika: Did your parents accept you as a daughter in the end? 
Namitha: With the help of SAHODARAN, my parents got counselling and were educated about the existence of transgender people in the society, which convinced my father to accept me, so eventually my parents changed their mind.
After three months of separation, I decided to transition into a woman and live as a woman full time. I could afford it thanks to my job and my friends because I was working for SAHODARAN, and I also used to dance on stage, which gave me a smaller income. This money helped me to transition into a female at a very young age. After my transition, my parents didn’t accept me for like two months but again after having a conversation with SAHODARAN, my parents accepted me as a woman.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Namitha: Humiliation for being myself disturbed my inner strength and SAHODARAN was really helpful to provide me job opportunities.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Namitha: Educate yourself, educate each other because education is the source of power, support, and individuality for any individual in this world. In order to empower other transwomen, we need to be in higher positions in the employment hierarchy, so we need more educated transwomen.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Namitha: Supporting LGBTQ community is my goal. To bring awareness that every human as an individual has a right to live their life on their own and nobody is to judge us for our identity. So my ultimate goal is to advocate and empower the LGBTQ community with the help of SAHODARAN and the THOZHI organization.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Namitha: Yes, later in my life I’m sure I will write a book on the transition I’ve experienced and how my life has been changed. This will be my story. Leaving our words is the only legacy for how people will remember us. So I really want to make it with a good impact.

"Later in my life I’m sure I will write a book on
the transition I’ve experienced and how my life
has been changed."

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Namitha: Currently I’m an organizing director for my transgender pageant that was supposed to be held this month. Due to the Covid-19 crisis in India, we are under lockdown, and once we are allowed to do our work, I’ll be working on Miss Trans Star India and hand pick transwomen and train them for international pageant. I see the future in the hands of young people, providing them with the education and empowerment they need to change the world. This is where I see myself in the next 5 years.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Namitha: To be yourself you don’t need to be scared at all. Talking will not be enough unless you make changes in your life. Also identify yourself and your true meaning of life, as transition into a female is not only going to define you as a woman but it will give you the strength to face this world.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Namitha: Yes, Gina is absolutely right. As I told you earlier, each of us is uniquely different from each other. Find your light and work on it, don't limit yourself by seeing others. What you want to do has nothing to do with any of us. Find your dream; keep pushing it to the end to reach higher goals every day.
Monika: Namitha, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Namitha: It was my pleasure to have an amazing conversation and a memory lapse with you. Keep interacting with other transgenders as well. The world needs to hear more from us. Also being transgender doesn’t mean an easy life as each of us has to go through a disturbed life. Once again thank you, Monika, lots of love to you. You are doing an amazing job.


All the photos: courtesy of Namitha Marimuthu.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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