NEW DELHI: It’s bold enough to live under a taboo, but to be able to defy not just one but two taboos require not only courage but a steely will power and a dash of luck. Consider this matrimonial ad:Age 31, an English Graduate, an MBA from Symbiosis and an avid swimmer. These specifics are no different from any regular ad published to attract potential suitors, but add to them, HIV Positive and Transgender as sex, and this advertisement becomes unique.

Amruta Alpesh Soni, 31, is a transgender suffering from Aids. When she wanted to look for a companion she refused to go for, a niche website available for transgenders specifically but opted for the general,,that went well with her resolve to be counted as normal and not odd.

“I don’t want welfare schemes exclusively for us; I want the schemes for the general public to benefit us as well," she said in an interview recently.

According to Soni, her proposal for marriage has been received very warmly by the potential candidates, in spite of, or maybe because of her complex identity.

"Most of the respondents have introduced themselves as divorced or widowed men," she said. "But I suspect that most of them belong to the transgender community but don't want to reveal it straightaway because of the 'transphobia' in our society," she added.

Her story is quite typical in terms of struggle against the prejudice of the public, which took a rare turn later when she was given an opportunity to break the cyclical pattern of violence and poverty to become what she has become now- a vocal champion of her community’s rights. She is currently employed with Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust, and is just ready to give her first public speech at Annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center - a few days later from now.

Soni was thrown out from her house at the age of 16, got molested by an uncle, and took refuge under a band of ‘hijras’. She went the whole hog by getting a sex change operation which was aligned with her intrinsic identity, and found herself flat broke and in deep debt of her ‘guruji’- the leader of her band. To repay the debt she started working as a petty sex-worker on the streets, and got raped and beaten up by loafers many times. It was then that she contracted the HIV virus, she says.

"After the rape, when I was taken to hospital for a check-up, the doctors paraded me against my will before trainees to show them how a vagina had been created in my body and how my breast implants looked." she said in the interview. “Even policemen were not ready to lodge a complaint. They said a sex-worker can’t be raped”, she added.

She is thankful to a Mumbai shopkeeper who gave her the money to go for studies. She graduated from Jamia Milia Islamia and then went for her Marketing degree. She owns a flat now in Mumbai and has adopted her nephew “informally”, whose father died sometime back.

Soni is looking forward to her speech in Philadelphia, albeit she is a bit nervous as it’s going to be her first public appearance.

"I'm nervous but happy. I want to tell the world that transgender people are not born just to beg; they can work and have a life beyond their gender identity." she announced proudly.