My name is Sudha, I am a 40-year-old transgender woman and I’m happy to share my story in APCOM’s Limelight series.
When I was 16, faced with stigma and discrimination because of my feminine side, my education ended during 10th grade and my life as a sex worker began.
It was a totally new experience and not always a good one. I was often subjected to harassment and violence from clients. I faced constant insults, but I had no-one to share my experiences with.
The first time I was arrested for being a sex worker, my parents found out and threw me out of the house.
Faced with nowhere to live, I turned to my friend, who I now consider my guru. He gave me a place to live and confidence to continue my work.
But I always felt that my life could be better and would present me with other opportunities.
Then I discovered non-government organisation Community Action Network (CAN) and the community-based organisation Sahodaran, which provides HIV and health services and helps people who are struggling with their sexual identity.
I became transgender in 2003 and the following year I got involved with TAI-VHS – the Tamil Nadu AIDS Initiative, a project supported by Voluntary Health Services in Chennai. Voluntary Health Services (VHS) is part of the Multi-country South Asia Global Fund HIV Programme (MSA), which is operated out of the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub.
TAI-VHS’s approach of putting the community at centre stage gave me hope and I started playing an active role in its activities.
I acquired skills in advocacy, networking and linkages and am able to provide support and outreach to thousands of transgender women in Tamil Nadu. With these skills I can also now I contribute to many policy-level changes in the state.
I love to write and am currently working on a book on the lives of transgender people. I also like to read, especially books about maintaining good health.
With the support of my organisation, I want to use my experience to help people and contribute to the growth of my community.
Copyright: APCOM 2014