CHANDIGARH: "They call me the third gender. This makes me smile and wonder but I am not in the race of superiority between the He and the She . My fight is not of superiority but of mere existence. My humble request is only to be called a human," says Kajal Mangal Mukhi, the trailblazer transgender from Chandigarh who shared her story from 'who am I to yes we are' with The Citizen.

"Everybody calls god with different names but in one voice entrusts with him the status of the supreme power. Then they cross him by mocking his creation. Human existence should be above being a husband or a wife. It should not be limited to producing two children. One should rise to the level of taking care of 100 children. I respect my femininity and it was I who chose it,” says Kajal, who is leading a battle from the front to get due rights for the community with philanthropy as her base.

She has been funding the education of youngsters from her community and today they are pursuing higher education and vocational courses. One of them is pursuing a Masters degree in Human Rights while another is pursuing a Bachelor's in Technology. A couple of them are the leading beauticians at the up market salons of Chandigarh. She is also running a NGO called Saksham Trust that has been fighting relentlessly for the human rights of transgenders, their legal rights and promoting education among them.

"Call me the dark eyeliner of the society that makes their eyes look attractive. I have seen rejection from my family which was the source of my origin. The irony was that when I returned home after 18 years, people told me that my father had lynched himself in smear as he could not come to terms with my conversion,” she recalls. Today she is the one taking care of her aged mother and also the family of her alcoholic brother and also compelling his children to take education.

"My mother is no more apologetic of my existence. In fact she now says that God should bless every mother with a child like me," she says.

Kajal recalls being born a boy, third in the row. It was in Hosur near Mysore .Her parents were expecting a girl but it turned out to be a boy who was named Raju. “My mother dressed me like a girl till I was four and I too had feminine traits which made me believe I was a girl. It was while bathing in a pond with my cousins that I realized that I was not like other girls,” she narrates.

Soon, this boy with feminine traits was sexually exploited by an uncle which became a dark secret of his life. Raju got some solace in the company of a schoolmate Mohan with whom he fell in love. But Mohan loved a 'girl' and this broke Raju.

Raju was soon identified as a transgender by another from the community and was taken to Mumbai where he entered sex trade as Kajal. "A transgender can ensure her survival by begging, sex trade or sing badhaies (praises) at marriages and child births. I saw men tricking women in love and selling them in the red light areas. Once I heard a woman crying while a man was trying to force himself on her. I flung a stone on his head and ran away,” she recalls.

It was here that she underwent 'Nirvana', the sex change operation without anesthesia by a 'Dai maa' from the community of Kinners.

Kajal describes this experience as a rebirth. After the operation, she was taken care of for 40 days and this followed initiation into the tribe of Kinners with a gala ceremony. She soon came to Punjab after being told that the income there was more by singing badhaies. She moved to a Dera in Manimajra in Chandigarh under the protection of a Guru where for the last 22 years she has been struggling for the human rights of transgenders.

The journey has not been easy as she has faced resistance not only from outside but from within her community as well. “I have been thrashed several times by the transgenders when I stood for adding the column for third genders in employment forms. They thrashed me for promoting education saying that I would deviate the new comers from the traditional practice of singing badhaies. They went to the extent of threatening to shave my head and impose a fine of Rs 10 lakh. But my Guru came to my rescue,” she says.

She also recalls when she was tricked by a prankster who told her of being selected for the television show 'Kaun banega crorepati' and she had gone to Mumbai only to return disappointed.

But her journey continues. She has also been contributing towards the marriage of poor girls. Her proteges are studying and vouch for carrying on the battle forward.

“At my age I will not get a job with this degree but it will ensure that I will be able to help the future generations of transgenders to study and get their due rights in society. It will help them enter various professions and give up the practice of begging and dancing at marriages and child births,” says Dhananjay who is in his mid forties and is pursuing a post graduate degree in human rights from Panjab University.