Gender and sexuality has always been a difficult topic to discuss and comprehend. Years of social construct and patriarchy has had us believe in only 2 genders – Male and Female. But is that all? No.
An individual is born with a particular sex, but there are many people who realise their true gender much later in their lives. Hence, this conversation is special and unique.
OoWomaniya had a candid conversation with Shilok Mukkati, a 21year old transwoman based in Bengaluru.
Who is Shilok Mukkati? How would you define yourself and your work?
I am a fellow social being with others in society. When the social structure abandons me to accept I become an extraordinary soul. So, this is my identity – I am a woman who is not given my womanhood when I was born. It was hard gained one. The 21 years of my journey has made me a poet (a poet who uses her poetry as a weapon to destroy the stereotypical social construct & patriarchy), a dancer(who believes in the body movement for the self-exploration and strength of self-love), an artist( who paints and explore the fine arts for the hunger of inner creativity), an activist( who fights for all the injustice made by patriarchy & fundamentalism), a community Radio Jockey (who is trying to do a little bit of changes that she could do for the sustainable welfare of queer community). I was born in Chickmagalur and grew up in Coorg where my roots belong.
How did you explore your gender and sexuality and at what age? How did you deal with that phase considering the conservative socio-cultural fabric of India?
See, I always knew myself that I am different, I do not belong to the circle where I was growing up (I mean the patriarchal heteronormative society). This feeling I started getting when I was around 3 or 4 years old, where I was getting the glimpse of the gender binaries made by society. But right from the beginning, the natural, psychological and biological factors of my gender were flowing liberally.
Due to the social structure of where I was growing up and I was trying to influence and pressurize my thoughts to fortify myself to adapt into that structure. There was a very less space for the survival of individualism. But my lonely childhood and frightful adolescence were serving me for the experiments of individuality. It was terrible and very hard to face the socio-cultural fabric. I tried all my best to face it or escape from it. Acting of adapting the patriarchy or stereotypes, trying to wear the mask of being the so-called man…..but everything failed. The authenticity of my attitudes, emotions, mannerisms were very strong. The only way to face it was to accept myself, to give as much love and care as I can give to myself, to uplift my own confidence, to make all the justice to be made for that little girl who was always captive in the closet.
Tell us a bit about your Bengaluru Life, current work that you are pursuing and the impact you are hoping to achieve?
4 years back when I came to Bengaluru it was an alien city for me. The humongous buildings, monstrous traffic was astonishing for a person who came from a small village. I was so scared. I constantly thought – where I am going to be a victim of bullying, discrimination, mocking, harassment.
But NO, this beautiful city surprised me with its positive, welcoming, non-judgemental acceptance with so much of love and support system. Especially my friends and teachers. Also, it was not so easy!! As now I had people and space for my self-exploration it made things more complicated for me on every step. Because there was a lot to unlearn and relearn. But the journey from the confusion to the conclusion was incredibly colourful. My voice which always lead to my humiliation in my high school days now made me realize that it was always my strength.
My dream to be an RJ (Radio Jockey) led me to the right path of choosing the community radio called Radio Active Cr 90.4 Mhz. The great support of my Director Pinky Chandran helped me a lot to grow with my voice. I hosted Yarivaru (which means – who are these people). Season 2 of this show, had one of the episodes called “Lesbians in the shadows” that won National Award by The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Presently I host Colourful Kamanabillu which is about LGBTQIA+ Community and Chail Lines, a show for the poet’s community in Bangalore.
Some light on Life and acceptance of transgender community in India, what are their struggles which majority at large are unaware of?
The transgender community is marginalised under marginalised communities itself. It is such a small community where it has not had visibility enough. There are various socio-cultural transgender groups called Hijras, Kinnaras, Shiva Shakthi, Aravanas, Jogappas and so on. There are many who don’t belong to this group too. Over the decades of Human Rights Activists and their activism has given a small visibility today to these groups. There is a count full of trans community who have gained their success in mainstream society. But still, the community has to fight a lot for their success, identity and acceptance. The people’s fear of the change and for the new society has led for the transphobia. The self-identity itself has to be hard gained, which is the biggest struggle for trans community.
How did you foray into poetry?
The only way to communicate with my inner self, and to voice the untold agony was poetry. The poetry has always been a therapeutic medium for my psychological well-being. It has also become a weapon to change many.
What message would you like to Indian girls and women about self-image and body positivity?
See, there are many people who are fighting, endeavoring for the identity of women all across, for some womanhood is hard gained one. Some of us get paranoid for our assumption of improper appearance. But there is so much to give attention to the injustice of the common humanity. There is a great attention to be given for the celebration of one’s self. Some of us will know the cause of one’s existence, some of us will find them. At the end, we have to make justice for this beautiful opportunity that we have for making of a better planet to live.
– A Poem by Shilok Mukkati
Look at us, born as sluts,…
Bearing the embargo of heats,
The tears of a girl are rushed by compassion,
The tears of an effeminate are crushed by exasperation.
My mother loves me, but never understands me.
As for my Father, I am not the one he wanted.
For the siblings, we are ghastly speech,
Forget the relatives, it’s a far speech at all.
My childhood was drenched by the rain of molestation,
Hush…! They zipped my mouth, never opened my abduction,
Here comes the lover in my sixteens,
But for him, it’s only the lust, not love.
Never told the reality of molestations, exploitations,
Even If I tell, Who’s there to listen to my oppression?
I was chased by the nightmares of shame and abandon,
My bed is wet with the tears and blood.
Even the Gods do not have many names,
But we are labelled as such it blows our names,
The labels have sucked like bloody leeches do,
The labels are swallowed and we curl as Pythons do.
Noose, Bottles of poisons, Pond and Well,
Welcomes as days rolled as well,
But the fire of femininity is burning in the heart,
Why should we die when there is no fault?
In the roasting prison of manly bones,
I’m the burning womanly soul,
In the world of darkness,
With the crown of Shining tears,
I’m the lightening power who rules the hurdles dawn & dusk.
Neither the masculine sea of dropping seeds,
Nor the feminine nature giving breaths,
I’m the space and peace between them,
I’m the genderless guardian angel of the gender hum…
The pages of the Vedas called us as Kinnars,
We are the two-spirited people over the seas,
The Kali of revolution has come by rushing,
Hear the awaited battle of equality roaring.
You so called nature’s dear Homo sapiens,
To flood the erroneous justification of you,
To blood the stereotypes of hierarchy & patriarchy,
To teach what real humanity is… We have come.
For the realisation and recognition of our existence & dignity,
Here we are, The Kinnaras of the dark world…