“We do not have the liberty and the freedom to live, to love, and to educate ourselves. Why? And till when? What will happen to my kids?”
                                                                                                 - Amruta Soni

This one phrase describes how disturbing it is to survive as a transgender in Indian society. It is also quite frightening that transgender youth are at greater risk of self-destruction as a result of rejection, bullying, and other harassment. The transgender community faces countless issues like no proper education, a discriminating healthcare system, rejections in jobs, and social humility. Very few people stand against all the injustice and do something unconventional. And one such person is Amruta Alpesh Soni from Chhattisgarh, who is currently serving as a dignified Advocacy Officer.

Amruta's quest to becoming an Advocacy Officer was not so easy. She was born as Paul into a general Catholic family in Solapur, Maharashtra. In childhood, Amruta was frequently mocked by the whole family and friends for wearing her mother's saris. Her parents used to fight over their boy's girlish preferences, and eventually, they divorced each other. Amruta stayed with her mother, who later enrolled her in swimming classes because she thought that it will regenerate Amruta's masculine features.

When Amruta did not change till the age of 16 according to her mother's expectations, her mother ultimately sent her to her uncle's place in Delhi to study, hoping that Amruta would become tough if she stays away from home. But it turned out to be a nightmare for Amruta when she was violated and raped by a family member. She did not receive any decent healthcare relief and was rather ridiculed at the hospital where she went for help. She was hesitant to take help from the police and straight out went to her mother. Amruta's mother gave her Rs 100 and advised her to leave that place and do something productive in life.

Amruta left her uncle's place and moved to Pune. She would sleep at a hospital bench at night, and she often used to disguise her identity and dress like a man to stay safe. She would fill over 10 buckets of water every morning for a tea-stall owner just for a cup of tea. There she eventually connected with other members of the transgender community. She further underwent a sex-change operation, but she also chose to complete her education. However, Amruta further served as a sex worker for livelihood. She continued doing sex work for a long time because she wanted to pay fees to finish her education. Things began changing after her education. Later when Amruta once went to visit her mother, she was shocked to see her son as a woman. Yet her mother encouraged her to continue her studies, as Amruta was determined to do. She ultimately graduated from Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. Later she also did an MBA from Symbiosis, Pune.

Amruta Soni wasn't ready to accept the concept that transgenders are different and they cannot work at regular jobs. She also did not assume any special treatment for being born a certain way. Amruta eventually met Alpesh Soni, whom she later married. She thought life would get better, but soon she discovered that he was cheating on her, hence she left him. In the year 2012, Amruta found out that she was HIV-positive. And life as she knew it, stopped at a horrible part after that. Amruta was already facing a lot in life, and now this disease came as a hard rock. However, her friends later introduced her to an organization that worked with HIV-positive individuals.

When Amruta was under treatment, she additionally decided to not ignore a society that had been unkind to her. She soon became an Advocacy Officer for the states of Chattisgarh, Haryana, Punjab, and the Union Territory of Chandigarh for the Vihaan Project. The Vihaan Project, which aims at contributing care and support to HIV patients, comes under the National AIDS Control Programme. She also engaged in the Annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Centre, USA. Now Amruta Soni works as an activist for trans people in society. She has come a long way and her life has taught her many valuable lessons. And the most powerful part is that Amruta Soni never gave up on her situation, and she remained unapologetically confident for who she is.

  • www.thetransinitiative.com
  • www.ncpiplus.org
  • www.joshtalks.com