Gauri Sawant is a 37-year-old transgender social activist. Born as Ganesh Suresh Sawant, she was born and raised in a conservative family in Pune. At a very early age of 9, after her mother’s demise, Gauri realised that she is different from others. After her mother passed away, she was raised by her grandmother. As a child, she has always been effeminate and more inclined towards the female gender. In school, Gauri was always mocked by her classmates, who even used derogatory terms to address her.
As puberty struck, she felt attracted towards the male gender. She didn’t have a definition to her sexuality, because she never knew what being gay meant. Gauri would often secretly dress up in her grandmother’s sarees, and apply make-up. As things became difficult in college, she chose kurtas because they looked gender neutral to her. She recognised the woman in her, even though her family never approved of her transition. So, she decided to leave her house.
With the help of Humsafar Trust, Gauri underwent transition. Without the support of her family and no roof to live under, her journey from Ganesh to Gauri wasn’t easy. Through all the ups and downs, she completed her transition. Later in the year 2000, along with Ashok Row Kavi and two others, Gauri formed an NGO of her own called ‘Sakhi Char Chowghi’ in Malad, Mumbai. Her motto was to provide a space of freedom to all transgenders, hijras and men who have sex with men (MSMs) in the city. 16 years down the line, with a team of 150 workers, Gauri promotes safe sex and provides counselling to transgenders from the Mumbai suburbs. She is also the petitioner of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgement that was passed in 2013. Three years after the Supreme Court recognised transgenders as a third gender, her community is still striving for basic civic rights.
But after this entire struggle she is also a proud mother. “A mother is a mother. There isn’t any assigned gender to be one,” says Gauri. Gayatri, her 16-year-old daughter, was left orphaned in 2001 after the death of her mother, who was a sex worker, died of HIV. Gayatri’s grandmother decided to sell Gayatri to a dealer in Sonagachi, Asia’s largest red-light area in Kolkata. Gauri wanted to save the little girl and she decided to adopt her. As a transgender, it wasn’t easy for her. When she walked on the streets with Gayatri, she was looked down upon by a few people. But a proud mother, Gauri raised Gayatri like every mother does, fighting all odds. Today, Gayatri studies in a well-known school and lives in a hostel.
“I don’t feel special. I became a mother because of Gayatri and she is my pillar of strength. I did what every mother does,” says Gauri.
When asked about her future endeavours, she says, “My father wanted me to be a policeman, but I couldn’t. I want Gayatri to achieve her goals. She has all the freedom for what she wants to be. I shall give her everything I can.”
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