There’s a culturally-imposed gender identity attached with being a woman: Sudeb Suvana
Instead of ‘woman’, Sudeb Suvana defines herself as female and a trans person after her transition
Her story unfolded on screen as Sudeb Suvana sat in the audience at the American Center in Kolkata. The film being screened was A Home for My Heart, directed by Sankhajit Biswas and the protagonist was Sudeb Suvana.
Born in a wrong body
Born in a male body, growing up Sudeb was not like any other boy. Since she can remember, she knew something was different about her. She could never identify with her male body and knew something was not right. Creative by nature, Sudeb was popular among relatives and neighbours. But it was the mid-1980s and growing up in the town Bangaon, West Bengal, Sudeb was regularly subjected to ridicule and catcalling for her “effeminate gestures”.
“I didn’t blame them. Just like me, they couldn’t understand what I was going through. That’s why they did what they did,” Sudeb said.
During her childhood games, as it often happens, her parents would dress her and her brother in girly attire and Sudeb would think that someday she would turn into a woman. “It was a very interesting time. I knew I couldn’t identify with my male body and naturally I chose womanhood. Because male and female were the only options in front of me,” Sudeb recalled.
In 1995, at the age of 15, was when Sudeb was confronted with a big change. “It was the time when the talk of transgender rights was gaining momentum in Kolkata and I started getting some study materials. I started to understand what I was going through and the logic behind it,” she added.
Young love and new discoveries
Another important incident made a huge impact on her life during the same time — young love. It was during this time that Sudeb met her first boyfriend. “He was a backbencher in school and would protect me from everything,” she said. It was from this boyfriend that Sudeb received a book that educated her about gender reassignment surgery (GRS). “I remember wanting to do it since the day I read about it. I didn’t know about the cost or the time, I just needed it to be done.”
In the early 1990s, there were a few known areas where members of the queer community would regularly meet in Kolkata: pockets like Dum Dum station area, Esplanade, Minto Park. “Just after my Madhyamik exams, I was going to a relative’s house in Dakshineswar. At Dum Dum station I saw two people who were physically men but had effeminate gestures and womanly clothing. I just looked at them for a while. I could sense there was a connection between us, but I couldn’t speak a word. Finally, one of them approached me and asked me to visit Dum Dum Station sometime,” Sudeb recalled. After that, she would go there regularly and meet several people from the community and it opened a new horizon.
In 2000, Sudeb and some others formed their own organisation. “We started working for the local LGBTQIA+ community and took up projects. Soon, the geography of our work expanded and we started working in Kolkata and Baruipur.” It was the first decade of the new century and Sudeb was learning everything she could about the transgender community.
Creating your own definition
Finally, in 2015, Sudeb started taking hormone treatment to undergo a gender reassignment surgery. At present, she has transitioned and doesn’t have a male body. However, she still calls herself Sudeb. “Most people change their name after going through the surgery but I have a strong ideological view on that. I didn’t change my name because I identify as a trans person and not a trans woman. There is a strong gender identity attached with being a woman, one imposed by society and culture. I don’t believe in that and I don’t identify with that. That’s why I still call myself Sudeb Suvana,” she said. So while a part of her identity is being female, Sudeb doesn’t identify as a woman.
Some might consider Sudeb’s ideologies radical. The same way her relationships might also seem radical and unique. For several years now, Sudeb shares what she calls a “close friendship” with a businessman named Ismail, but she doesn’t label it as a relationship. “More than anything, we are friends and I prefer it to be like that. His family has accepted us and we want to stay the way we are now,” she said.
A life in motion picture
It was during a work project that she met filmmaker Sankhajit Biswas, who approached her about making a documentary. Talking about the film, Biswas said, “About 10 years ago, while making my first film (Dui Dhuranir Golpo / In-Between Days) with the transgender community in Kolkata, my aim was to explore the idea of womanhood through their eyes. With A Home for My Heart with Sudeb, who had become a ‘woman’ through SRS (GRS), I was curious to know how people accepted her.”
Interestingly, after the operation, Sudeb’s life has not changed much. “There are fewer catcalls now, but besides that it’s almost the same. My struggles and ideologies are the same and my feelings for my friends and family are the same too,” she said.
Courtesy : Telegraph India
Note: This news piece was originally published in telegraphindia.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights