‘First person to get transgender ID in Maharashtra’s tribal Nandurbar’, Vijaya Vasave now gives succour to others

Life has been easy for Vijaya Vasave. From multiple suicide attempts to questioning her own existence, Vasav, the first trans woman from the hilly and tribal district of Nandurbar in Maharashtra, has seen it all. With his transition over, Vasav has started a new life and is now helping many others like him.

Hailing from a farming family in the small village of Dahel in Akkalkuwa taluka of Nandurbar, Vijaya was born as Vijay. From childhood, Vasave always felt like a woman trapped in a male body, but she struggled to understand why. After his primary education at the Zilla Parishad School, he was admitted to a residential school for tribal students. However, things took a turn for the worse as he became the subject of constant harassment and violence from schoolmates there. “I was never comfortable with boys, so to escape the gaze, I took baths late at night when everyone was asleep. In the mornings, I would get ready for school before anyone woke up,” he says.

An acute sense of isolation grew as he had no one to trust, making school life pure torture. Starting with taunts and physical harassment, the male classmates took turns raining punches and kicks on the young Vasave with the lights off. “It was the idea of ​​fun. No one came to my aid. The teachers were not kind and asked me not to act like a girl,” he recalled.

It didn’t take long for him to sink into depression and attempt suicide. “I often slept with a bottle of Dettol for consumption at night,” he recalls. His trials continued when Vasave moved to Nashik to complete his graduation.

The workshop that changed his life

In 2019, the Vijaya university held a workshop led by Bindumadhav Khire, an LGBTQIA activist and a psychiatrist from Pune. “That was a turning point in my life. Before, I had no idea that being a transgender person is as natural as being male or female. Until then, I thought I was not normal. But that workshop helped me realize that it wasn’t like that,” he says. After years of abuse and trauma, it was access to workshops and subsequent medical procedures that helped her realize her true self.

After graduation, Vasav enrolled for MSW at Karve Institute and completed his sex reassignment surgery (SRS) earlier this year. “I am the first transwoman in Satpura region. Also, I was the first person in Nandurbar to be given a transgender identity card. Send me my transition, I can say I’m at peace with myself.’ Satpura, a hilly region between Gujarat and Maharashtra, is home to many tribes living in remote villages.

Vasav says his family supported his change, as did his villagers. “For others, that was something they hadn’t heard or seen before,” he added.

Today, her main concern is to make sure she gets a good government job. His master’s degree did not help him get a permanent job and today Vasav works as a volunteer with the National Aids Research Institute (NARI) project. “Whenever I go to Nandurbar, many people approach me, including those who want to transition or other LGBTQIA people. I try to help as much as I can,” he says.

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