The solace of drugs

PRATICHYA DULAL/December 21 – Clad in skinny jeans and a fitting sweater, Moon carves a striking figure. Her well-done makeup and the sway of her hips, as she walks into the coffee shop, turns a few heads. However, once she opens her mouth to answer a call on her phone, one can literally feel all that interest evaporate.

“This, you see, sums up my life, no matter how much I try, I fail to impress people the way I would like to,” says a disappointed Moon. Disappointment and discontentment are two words that have crossed her path many times—something she is still struggling to overcome. It took the 25-year-old transgender woman a long time to get to terms with who she actually is. Yet, self-revelation was the easy part. Life then after has been harsh for this lady who hails from Melamchi.

Getting her family to accept her for who she is still something she is working at. “Some days I think they have accepted me, but these rare moments vanish into thin air the next day when they try to talk me into meeting a psychiatrist or a religious guru to help me become ‘normal’,” explains the woman who lives inside the body of a man. Unable to live with the constant humiliation and guilt that came with being unable to be the son her parents wanted to see, Madan, the name she was born with, left home at the tender age of 15, and has lived a harsh life.

Through the years she has seen and been through a lot ‘for just trying to be herself’. Disillusioned with who she actually was, and trying to earn a living with no qualification or a particular skill was tough. So much so, she was forced to trade the very body—which had brought about so much trouble—for her survival. Right after descending to the capital she got into smoking.

Some of the friends she met at Pashupati then introduced her to marijuana and she was hooked. A few years later she started doing hard drugs. Her partner was into drugs as well and she was tempted to join him but had held off for a long time. One morning, on returning home after another night of selling her body, she took her first puff of brown sugar, a street-name for heroin. Reena, another transgender woman, got into drugs because she did not know what else to do with her life.

Reena, 30, started doing drugs in her early twenties and has been to rehabilitation thrice, to no avail. “All kinds, shot syringes too,” says Reena, a woman of few words. Reena hails from Dharan and it was there that she struggled with her identity crisis and also started using drugs. Reena’s is from a ‘lahure’ family. Her family has not isolated her and looks after all her expense.

Yet, despite a comparatively better life, Reena says she was marred with constant questions about who she was, why she acted strange, and the stares and frowns that even strangers threw her way. “My sister is an engineer and my brother lives with his family in London, but I had no purpose in life. I wanted to be happy and nothing gave me containment in life but drugs,” said Reena, who has run away from her rehabilitation center in Kathmandu for the third time. “If money was not an issue I wouldn’t even try to quit drugs.

There is not much for me to do in life after all,” she whispered in our last meeting. These stories are similar to hundreds of transgender people who are working on getting their families and the society to accept them for who they are. “They are the ‘grey’ between the black and white the world normally understands,” says Manisha Dhakal, the executive director of Blue Diamond Society, a Kathmandu-based organisation that advocates for LGBTI rights. “For many of them getting into the sex industry, turning to alcohol or drugs are just a pattern of life. Confusion with oneself combined with the contempt of loved ones makes them soft targets for those looking to make easy money from pouncing on their insecurities and getting them hooked to drugs,” adds Dhakal. As per Dhakal, there is no accurate data about how members of the LGBTI community are into drugs, or what kind of assistance they have been seeking.

“First, they are hesitant to come out. But then admitting to abusing drugs takes a whole lot of courage too. They are living under the weight of two stigmas,” she adds. Rehabilitation programs that cater to the specific needs of the LGBTI are few and far in between. Now that Moon has been completely clean from drugs, she says her past drug-fueled life was hell. Even if at the time she enjoyed it. “It was the solution to all my problems back then. My parent’s refusal to accept me, the harsh judgment of the society, and my occupation all vanished with each puff,” reveals a bubbly Moon. Right from the first day when her friends introduced her to marijuana, money had been a constant problem. But when she started smoking brown sugar the problem increased tenfold. There were constant quarrels with her partner, and she even had a scooter accident when driving under the influence.

It proved to be a turning point. Bedridden with a fractured right leg, her father came to visit her and the unexpected gesture from her family gave her the strength to get away from the company of partner and the drugs. The path to recovery has been a tough one, but Moon continues to persevere in a society she fears will always see her as an outcast. She recently had breast implement, but apart from that not much has changed.

She still works as a ‘sex worker’ to sustain herself in the Capital, has problems renting rooms, and is constantly harassed by the police. Yet, the olive branch her family have offered her has given her a new confidence. Life slowly, but surely, has started looking a lot better. “A small gesture of acceptance changed my life. I am more confident of myself now, even though I know my mother still harbours hope that one day I will be the son she had given birth to. She talks to me and I am welcome in the family once more. I finally belong again,” says Moon, “and the solace of acceptance is far more fulfilling than the solace of drugs.”

Source :  The Kathmandu Post