Pride Month: The unique family system in the transgender community

Published - June 03, 2024 12:43 pm IST

Transgender communities often form unique family systems with a Guru and her disciples filling the void left by biological families that might have abandoned them. These chosen families provide support and structure, with the Guru or Nayak acting as a mother figure. She adopts a trans daughter, called a Chela, who may then adopt a Nathichela (granddaughter), and so on, creating a lineage that mirrors a traditional family. The hierarchy continues with Sandhichela (great-granddaughter), Chadakuchela, and finally Tokuru, forming an extended family. The Guru plays a critical role in her family’s well-being. She provides shelter, food, and sometimes education, and helps fund gender-affirming surgeries.

The quality of life for a trans person heavily depends on their Guru. Supportive Gurus can help their disciples get educated and find jobs, while demanding ones may force them into menial or risky work. Each family has its own rules, including financial contributions to the clan, which can sometimes be exploitative.

Sumithra Divyanathan, a Nayak and entrepreneur, supports her community by promoting education and entrepreneurship, hoping for a brighter future for all. Sumithra shares, “I work towards empowering my community. One of our members is the first trans advocate from Vellore. I support my family by providing meals and funding their surgeries, and we celebrate their second birth. I am proud to be an entrepreneur and a freelance cook. Not only that, but I hope to see more entrepreneurs arise from my community.”

While the transgender community in India has a supportive family structure, they still face significant societal and economic challenges. More acceptance and opportunities are needed to improve their lives and allow them to thrive.

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