Valiant & Brawny – Meet Dhananjay Chauhan, A Transwoman We All Need To Know & Learn From

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Desk Editor & Tarushi Singh, Keekli Intern 

Dhananjay’s story is just one such narrative of fighting her demons and overcoming them, but this struggle for acceptance is still a long one that the LGBTQIA+ Community will continue to fight. A perfect quote by Gloria Steinem that resonates with the narratives of gender accurately, “A gender-equal society would be one where gender does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”

Pride Month is celebrated all across the globe and Shimla is no exception, as the magic of Maya Bazaar organized by the Road to Utopia Foundation was witnessed on 4th and 5th June at Hotel Peterhoff, Shimla. The occasion was evidently colourful and warm with a diverse range of stalls by various entrepreneurs and energetic performances. The event was graced by Dhananjay Chauhan from the Saksham Trust, Chandigarh, a transwoman, who graduated from Punjab University, and is a strong advocate of fighting for equal rights and has been instrumental in bringing about a change, no matter how little it has been.

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While speaking with KEEKLI, Dhananjay shared her experiences saying that her journey was truly never easy, but it was definitely worth it. Since the age of three, she was aware what she wanted to be, but her identity awareness as a transwoman wouldn’t fit in the society or wasn’t even accepted by her own family. Taking a more stringent path, her family believed that sending her for conversion therapy and performing some tantric rituals would be an easy solution for making her realise her own identity as a boy or a man, thus making him fit in their so-called society. Which thus resulted in heart-breaking experiences for her, a petrified soul and an even scared body.

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Dhananjay further shared, “We had to physically dress according to the society, but mentally we were clear about our gender and sexuality, I took pride in it. When in college, I was harassed mentally, socially and physically while I was pursuing MA in History as I had a strong base in academics but in 1993, I was asked to drop out from the university and my education was compromised. Ragging and various forms of discrimination and sexual abuse further made it difficult for me to survive. In 1994, I enrolled for studying law, during that time I was sexually abused by a group of 12 men in the University room, which resulted in my leaving the field of education completely. Post that I was abducted and gang-raped by 20 men who then left me beaten up and half dead on the streets. The incident left me so depressed that I almost hung myself. But just when I was about to step down, I had a revelation, that why should I end my life. I should want to live and be the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. That was my second birth.” She further added that it was an unforgiving and an unjust society which gave her so many scars, but life is full of love and kindness and the strength to fight against these all has to come from within.

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Dhanajay’s resolves to start afresh and make a difference thus made her work towards the upliftment of their community, as she organised Pride Parades in Chandigarh, initiated and fought hard to introduce a separate washroom for transgenders in the University, she takes seminars and lectures for students to educate them about the LGBTQIA+ community, thus making a positive impact on the society.

At 51, she continues to spread awareness and her only demand from the society is to accept them for who they are; they do not require special treatments but just need equality and fair treatment –to put it simply, they want to be treated like a ‘human beings’ and not be differentiated based on ‘gender’. Dhananjay believes in holding discourses by creating awareness through education and this sprouts from her interest in educating all. She shared numerous examples of the existence of the transgender community in India and emphasised the transition of culture post-colonisation and how the Western beliefs were imposed in India and being part of non-procreative sexualities was criminalised, which had severe repercussions on LGBTQIA+ community then and the impact of these policies was very evident in present. These policies caused a stigma against the non-binary communities in India and parents started to disown their children if they came out. Even though Dhananjay herself had a similar experience but fortunately, she was adopted by an old couple in Chandigarh who has provided her stability in life; and they even accepted her boyfriend, who is a transman.

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Dhanajay is grateful that the society is slowly progressing and is becoming more accepting of the non-binary communities, but a fair amount of struggle lies ahead. She stated that she proudly associates herself with the Hijra culture and even explained the history of names such as Hijra, Kinnar and Khusra, while briefly sharing about the intra-community discrimination, hierarchies, and impact of this in the community. A double MA, with a Masters’ Degree in Human Rights from PU and Social Work from Indira Gandhi National Open University, Dhanajay is armed with education and focuses on ‘educating all’. The transgender community has been revered as a divine community in Indian mythology but sadly the stigmas are so deeply rooted that people are unaccepting of the multiple sides of the very faith they follow.

Dhananjay continues to live proudly and boldly, sharing her life story and struggles confidently so that many others from the community can improve their lifestyle and become part of the society in a natural manner rather than struggling to find space. From participating in the approval of Supreme Court laws to providing support and voicing out against the unfair treatment of their community, Dhanajay has come a long way and has carved a new path for many individuals who can have a relatively better journey than her. Creating a safer space has been her life’s goal and of all the others from the community who fight for their rights to be accepted as they are and who they are.

The seasons of life haven’t always been kind to Dhanajay but her own will to adapt and improve has helped her attain the current name and fame she has achieved. they have. The beautiful LGBTQIA+ community represented by a rainbow of colours is truly fabulous but its establishment involves various dark sides to it too, and many unknown struggles and journeys, who take part in the Pride Parade which celebrates their survival, respects them and admires them.

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