Estelle is a trans person born and raised in Chennai, India. She realized that she was non-heterosexual when she was in 1st standard. She was born into a middle-class family of five and was the only cis-male child. Estelle was always first in school. She was an enthusiastic child who not only was first in academics but also took part in many other extra-curricular activities such as elocution, essay-writing, singing and dramatics to name a few. She remembers that at school she was also the winner during various ‘Maggi Quiz Competitions’. She was renowned for her English skills.
However, Estelle was also being closely watched and often used as a laughing stock as she was effeminate although she says she did not particularly realize this. Even today she asks “Where does masculinity start and where does it end? On the same note, where does femininity start and end?” Hence, she had to endure a lot of harassment, prejudice and bullying at school. There was no room for complaints as she said she was often called as the ‘complaint box’. Two incidents strike Estelle very heavily. The first one is that a senior pupil who harassed Estelle was made the ‘School Pupil Leader’. The next one is that all those pupils who harassed and bullied Estelle never found a chance to apologize to Estelle as they have never realized their fault. One of Estelle’s classmates who is an Orthopaedician, educated in Russia, strongly believes in gender and sexual binary and ridiculed Estelle.
Estelle also remembers the way she was treated as a girl when we was training for Tennis when she was in her 6th standard onwards. A boy there regarded Estelle as a girl and behaved with her as a girl. She felt very safe and comfortable with him. Estelle longed for such a friendship. By this time she finished school and left for Australia in August 2004 to pursue her Bachelors degree. It was in 2005 that Estelle came-out to her parents. Her father’s response to Estelle was that while she can experiment with her sexuality to come to know about her, it is essential that she focuses more on her education. However, her mother was a little emotional that her son was in fact not a ‘son’. As Estelle says, her mother is still unable to tolerate the fact that Estelle is a trans person identifying as gender non-binary and gender non-conforming. Her mother still wants Estelle to marry a cis-female and live as a cis-male.
Estelle returned to India in February 2007. She pursued a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Psychology from the University of Madras. During this time she was featured twice in ‘The Education Times’ supplement of ‘The Times of India’ daily and published an article on ‘Climate Change’. She also learnt languages like French from Alliance Francaise de Madras and Chinese – Mandarin from Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA) during this time out of her personal interest. She was very interested to pursue research due to which wanted to pursue further education. However due to family circumstances she had to get a job and start earning. So, due to her study abroad experience and having been affected by an education agent she wanted to make a difference in the industry with her practice. So she joined an education agency. However, even with this organization which is a huge organization she was publicly harassed, bullied and discriminated as people in her organization came to know that Estelle is not attracted to cis-females. When she complained of the same to higher officials, she was unfairly dismissed. Because of the deregulation in India’s employment relations and the neoliberal style of work culture many people are generally affected. But trans people like Estelle are the most affected.
Thereafter Estelle took up a Masters degree (MA) in Development Policy and Practice from Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD) and at present is affiliated with the Department of Women’s Studies at Bharathidasan University as a Project Fellow. Upon completion of her MA, Estelle also studied German from Goethe Institut Chennai.
So what Estelle wants from every person is that all people by default should know that sexual and gender diverse people exist. She wants toilets to be installed for sexual and gender diverse people in every infrastructure built. She wants every talk show to call sexual and gender diverse people to share their opinions for every topic including gender.