Published: 01st January 2021
Here's how Delhi's Transmen Collective is creating safe spaces for every transman in the country
Satvik Sharma and Jamal Siddiqui share their personal stories of transition which led them to set up the Transmen Collective. They speak to us about how there is a need for more safe spaces
For Satvik and Jamal, school has never been a happy place to be in — they would rather skip and stay home. "We faced discrimination at every point, we were bullied as we did not adhere to the norms of society," Satvik tells us. However, what is most unfortunate is that their story is not one of a kind and their life experiences are representative of the trauma faced by every transman in the country. These two transmen are ensuring this is not repeated — and that people from their community do not have to go through these experiences. Satvik Sharma (28) and Jamal Siddiqui (29) along with one of their other friends Ritwik Dutta started the Transmen Collective in 2017 to create inclusive and safe spaces for themselves and others like them in Delhi. The collective is now a go-to place for people of their community which also provides them with useful resources to deal with their everyday problems.
"We began with this thought that when we were looking for inclusive, safe spaces in Delhi, we couldn't find any for transmen. That's how the idea came up to create such a space online and offline for others like us. We initially began with something called a Transmen Night, which was a light-hearted meet and greet to bring people together, make new friends, talk about being trans and a lot more. The event had turned out to be quite a success and that could possibly be called the official launch of the collective in Delhi. The social media pages, the website were all in the pipeline at that time and they came in much later. We were more into offline spaces in the beginning," explains Satvik.
Satvik Sharma | Pic: Transmen Collective
The Collective is now what they describe as a comprehensive collection of the most important resources that transmen in our country might require at any point in their lives. "We have been providing support and resources to people in our community — contacts of psychologists, more information about our rights, events, workshops on how to deal with a transition, mental health and more such topics. Due to the pandemic, we had to shift online. We formed an online support group under the purview of Transmen Collective during the COVID-19 induced lockdown to create a safe space for them to speak up about their issues, concerns. We have been working with a few therapists to provide support and guidance through numerous sessions online. People have to register on our website for these sessions as their privacy and safety is of utmost importance to us. Through this, we ensure that people get the help or resources they require," says Satvik. Adding to that, Jamal says, "Because people were locked inside their houses, we began the mental health support group. Not all homes are a safe space for people like us. We thus understand how integral it is to connect people to apt resources that are helpful."
Moving back in time, Satvik and Jamal recall what they had to face — the result of which is the collective. "Especially in sports, I wanted to play with the boys' team but I was put in the girls' team," says Jamal. To this, Satvik adds, "I had to wear the school uniform, which was a skirt for girls, even when I identified as a boy and wanted to put on pants. I was bullied and had to adjust according to society's norms and so I ultimately gave up and wore the uniform. Teachers were not supportive at all. In school, when we once had our scout trials, I was not even given pass marks because I hadn't worn the correct uniform. I remember the trauma that despite having knowledge about what was needed at the trials, I was still was not given the marks I deserved. I felt like an outcast when I was finally getting to understand my physical body and what gender identity I would like to be identified by. Back then, I didn't know what the term transmen meant as we had no mainstream media representation at all."
Jamal Siddiqui | Pic: Transmen Collective
Both of them later studied through distance learning as the discrimination was unbearable and they couldn't continue regular classes. "When we go for job interviews, nobody is interested in our CVs. Instead, they let us go because we are not dressed according to their protocols. I lost all my confidence there. I had scored 80 per cent in my MBA, but that didn't matter," shares Satvik. Jamal wishes to study further and Satvik wants to get a full-time job where they are respected for what they identify themselves as. Satvik has completed their MBA from Dehradun and Jamal has worked in the NGO sector before they set up the collective together.
Before the lockdown, they had also conducted an offline event of Mandala art-based therapy. "Being a transman can be stressful and as an impact of that mental health can get affected. Mental health services are quite expensive, which makes them inaccessible to most of us. We introduced the mandala art therapy for this solely, to help deal with stress and manage it better," adds Satvik. They say that the pandemic has affected their offline operations quite a bit but they believe they will bounce back soon.
Their website and social media pages also touch upon the physical or bodily changes that transmen might have to go through during their transition. More so, they even provide elaborate explanations as to how one can deal with such changes too. "Gender Dysphoria is the state of uneasiness or dissatisfaction which arises due to a mismatch in assigned gender and the gender the person is of. Or in simple terms, it is that feeling of uneasiness which people have due to a mismatch in their respective gender identities and biological sex. Dysphoria is something we all have been through. One of the most common among them is Chest Dysphoria, which is very common among transmen. Because we have been through these ourselves, felt the changes we understand what others might experience," explains Satvik.
As for their future plans, the Transmen Collective wants to help people on the ground as much as possible and get the collective registered.