From pvt sector to cleaning rly bogies: The life and times of a transgender

From pvt sector to cleaning rly bogies: The life and times of a transgender

Submitted by alvin on Fri, 2016-08-05 11:19 Bengaluru: Dressed smartly in a T-shirt and jeans, 28-year-old Laya, a B.Com graduate, strides confidently; and when she speaks, especially in fluent English, you can imagine her in a well-paid job in the private sector. But Laya is heading to Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station, not to catch any train but to clean railway coaches to earn her livelihood. And there is a reason for that.Shunned by parents and discriminated by the world for being a transgender, Laya’s poignant story is a grim reminder of the hardships faced by those who are unfortunate enough to be born ‘different’ in today's world.Born as Lokesh Reddy to middle-class parents, both of whom are retired government employees, Laya had a normal upbringing, that is until she turned 13.“At age 13, I realised that I am a woman trapped in a man's body. I tried to convince myself that I am a man and not a woman. But the urge became strong as I grew up. I played only with girls. When we enacted some plays, I chose to play a female character,” Laya says.Laya's siblings rejected her when they got to know about her sexuality. “My parents were angry with me for my behaviour and they accepted me as I am. But because of my siblings, they avoided meeting me or inviting me,” she says.Now, Laya stays alone in Whitefield and works at the railway station: cleaning coaches being her profession now. She arrives for work at the railway station around 10am in the morning and leaves by 6 in the evening. She works in two shifts and cleans two trains per day. “I get paid Rs 4000 for cleaning one train. I have been doing this job for four years now and I am happy. It gives me a feeling that I am also a part of Modi's Swachh Bharat Campaign,” Laya says proudly.Soon after completing her B.Com from a Vijayanagar college in 1996, Laya worked for three different companies, earning up to Rs 20,000 per month in each company. But once her sexuality became the topic of discussion, her employer asked her to quit.“My colleagues approached me for sex. When I complained to the company, the authorities suggested me to change my behaviour and be normal like others. How can I consider those people normal who consider and limit us only to sex work or begging?” asks Laya who also remembers the barbs flung at her during college for wearing kurta and jeans.“What’s wrong if we wear kurta and jeans or saris and churidhars? We don’t appear like a woman but there is a woman is us,” she says defiantly.Abandoned by parents and siblings, Laya got in touch with the transgender community when she was 13 years old. “My community members asked me to join them, so I joined them. Soon after my graduation, I started begging for money. But being a qualified person, I questioned my decision. I asked myself, why should I beg or do sex work? I can live like others, but the sick society did not give me a chance. So I had to work here [railway station] and earn for myself,” she says.Laya knows several software languages such as C and C but they are of no use for her now. Her dreams of a normal life are in tatters yet she doesn’t spew venom on a society that was so harsh on her. All she wants is to be understood. “We are human beings too. All that we demand from society is to be given a chance instead of putting us down,” she says and walks towards the direction of the train.