Me Hijra, Me Laxmi by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi

With a PG degree in Bharatanatyam, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi has starred in shows like “Bigg Boss” and “Sach Ka Saamna”. She is a transgender rights activist and currently runs Astitva, but she says that it was dance that helped her to feel like she belonged in mainstream society. “Me Hijra, Me Laxmi” is her autobiography, which was released in English and was translated by R. Raj Rao and P. G. Joshi. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi was the first transgender person to represent the Asia Pacific region at the UN, and she also represented the transgender community and India at several international forums, including the World AIDS conference in Toronto, Canada.

“Me Hijra Me Laxmi” is about her suffering of becoming a hijra by choice, and her following journey of battling for her community’s recognition despite incredible odds. She expresses profound gratitude to her parents, who accepted her, and says, “I am a hijra and have been accepted by my family.” The autobiography talks about her abusive childhood, her difficult growth into adulthood, and her final evolution into a hijra.

With a fairly simple narrative, it starts with how a young, sickly asthmatic boy born into a Brahmin household deals with gender dysphoria while facing familial and societal expectations and talking about his need to find his real identity. She discovered the patriarchal society and the misogynistic culture that she lived in pretty early on and says, “In a patriarchal misogynistic culture of ours, dance is a womanly pursuit and I was called homo or chakka.” Without getting too graphic, there are parts of the book where she talks about her abusive childhood, recalls her adolescence, and also about her initial days in the gay community. She also narrates her numerous romantic relationships, the times she felt suicidal, and her constant need for validation as a bar dancer.

“When I became a hijra, a great burden was lifted off my head.” When she talks about how she chose to be a part of the hijra world, the story takes a formidable turn. She mulls over the guru-chela system and the path she’s choosing to take, while balancing the demands of her hijra community and parents. She recounts her exploits, she is never modest, hesitant, or remorseful. The memoir grows in strength as she develops into a strong, self-made individual. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi recounts her journey from an activist speaking out for her community at conferences to fronting the demand for ‘transgenders’ to be recognised as a separate category in government records.

The memoir gives us a first-person perspective of Laxmi’s experiences and fights, both the good and the bad, the profound and the frivolous. We also get to meet the people in her life who transformed her into the person that she is today. She is an activist, celebrity, ambassador, artist, and so much more. And on the personal side of the story, we get to know the child, the lover, the dancer, the woman, the hijra, and the loyal child.