Salma is from India.

For centuries now, India has recognized the existence of a third gender, embodied by individuals named hijras. Hijras are male-born people who dress and behave in society as female. Neither men, nor women, hijras are a third gender symbolically and legally recognized as such. An in between status.

But Salma is not a hijra.
While hijras benefit from a relative safety, Indian gender non-conforming people go through an even harsher treatment in society. They often are mugged by civilians. And calling upon the police is useless. The latter harass transgender people too. 
This is what Salma went through.
This is why Salma left India.

In Salma’s mind, New York City was the only option. Leaving India meant going there.
Is it because this city inspires safety and anonymity for LGBTI people? Or is it just because America is the land of new beginnings? Nobody knows. But this is where Salma landed. And there’s no other land she’s stepped on since then.

That was 13 years ago. And 13 years ago, Salma’s project was clear. Transition. Gender transition. Leading to a potential gender transition.

But when you move to another country on a working visa, the gap between bold and broke tends to shrink. And going broke would mean being sent back to India.
It took Salma 5 years. The longest wait. To finally consider transitioning as a feasible journey. A bold journey.

And Salma put all her efforts into it. For it takes social courage and mental energy. Becoming a woman when you know you are a woman but no one sees you as such. But rather as a man. That’s a hell of a journey.
So for two years, it was all about transitioning. And it’s a long process. And there is no tutorial for that. What are the steps to follow?
This is when your calendar becomes an agenda. One day a week becoming Salma. Two days a week introducing Salma. Seven days a week being Salma. Bold schedule. Goals scheduled.

In New York City, to become Salma was easier. Doesn’t mean it was easy. And it hasn’t been.
When Salma lost her job, being Salma became a problem. Employers want employees.
And though this word has no gender. For an employer. When you are blurring the lines between he and she, you are not an ideal employee.
Financial stress and migration issues popped back up. It was all a matter of time. And time is money. Especially here, in NYC.
Salma stepped back. Back to dressing and appearing in society as male.

Salma eventually found a new job. But she lost it. And it’s been 6 years of an endless struggle. Swinging from employed to unemployed. Either staying as legal or illegal. And as your situation goes back and forth, you can’t really move forward. So she postponed the gender topic. And she keeps postponing it to this day.

Now, as she’s relentlessly been seeking stability, Salma has built a most terrifying wisdom.
Life is choices. Salma’s day-to-day concern comes down to choosing. Or rather not choosing. Not choosing to be a woman and unwillingly being a man.
Further down this logic comes Salma’s double experience, as a man and as a woman, to prove a tragic but basic point.
She is convinced that in the US, in India, and anywhere, being a man is anyhow more convenient. So when looking for a steady income, for a secure migratory status, to be a man is a choice that is not one.

And as Salma forcefully solves a dilemma, time slowly brings new ones. Salma wants a family. With children of her own blood. In her opinion, having a family is a cisgender and heterosexual privilege. And gay or transgender elders. They all look so lonely because of that.
So Salma has a plan. An ubiquitous plan. Cause there’s nothing you can’t do. She wants to build one family. Have several biological children. With two partners. One man. One woman. Two households.
 You don’t need to do the maths. And you don’t need to find labels. At least not for Salma.
 She insists. Don’t box her. Don’t box people into gender or relationship categories.

Why is it such a pervasive leaning?

On the picture you probably see a man. Through these words, you most likely hear a woman. A woman? A transgender woman? A male-to-female transgender woman? An untransitioned male-to-female transgender woman? A bisexual untransitioned male-to-female transgender woman?
This is how and why Salma doesn’t fit in the queer community. Nor can she fit in society. No matter what amount of labels India or America have been able to produce and accept. Labels are labels. You think they’re useful until you meet someone whose life has been ruined by them.

Salma wants a job. She wants papers. She wants a reliable and secure environment in a city that has yet to give it to her. She wants love. She wants a family.

At the end of the day, Salma wants what she needs.
And she doesn’t need your sympathy.




back to project