Ananya Banik is a transgender woman who was born in the northern Mymensingh district of Bangladesh. Ananya lived as a boy for a lot of her early life, but when she reached adolescence, her gender identity and sexuality were in turmoil.
She has been openly living as a hijra, or transgender person, since she turned 16. Since then, Ananya has found several good jobs, learned classical Indian dance, and has even performed on a national TV to show the life of the hijra community.
But, that’s not to say that her journey has been easy. As anyone who has transitioned will probably tell you, finding your true self is very rarely an easy or simple journey.
Ananya had this to say: “My relatives and neighbours used to ask my mother: Why does your son walk and behave like a female?”
Ananya had felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body, saying: “A female soul was dormant in my body and mind.”
After an internal struggle, she made the difficult decision to live openly as a transgender woman at the age of 16.
“My family wanted to get rid of me because they had to face a lot of unpleasant questions from neighbours and relatives.”
Sadly, Ananya’s mother was the only one who supported her and her brothers disowned her after their father passed away.
But, Ananya recognises that compared to most who are banished from their homes at a much younger age, she was lucky to be able to stay with her family until she turned 16.
Despite the fact that hijras were recognised as a third gender back in 2013, they remain one of the most marginalised groups in Bangladesh. Many transgender people live in slum areas and survive on odd jobs. Some are even denied that, as they are turned down for work, and are forced to take to the street sand demand money from roadside shopkeepers.
According to Ananya, it’s the only way that some hijras can earn money.
“Many hijras are forced to collect money from shopkeepers. They don’t have any other way to earn money.”
As mentioned earlier, Ananya had the opportunity to show the life of the hijra community on a TV show. However, even this was not without it’s problems. Apparently, Ananya struggled to be accepted.
“Many of my colleagues were uncomfortable around me. They wouldn’t sit me with me at lunch. They wouldn’t get into the office lift if I was inside.”
She finished up by saying: “I dream of a society where hijras won’t be discriminated against. I’m a hijra but I’m not a burden to society.”