Sanjana Tiwari, dost tumhari: Transwoman who works to uplift lives of others like her


Sanjana Tiwari, who was forced into the sex trade because of poverty, is now an autorickshaw driver and economically independent. As a volunteer activist, she is now educating trans people about AIDS and safe sex. “Sanjana Tiwari, dost hai tumhari,” she says endearingly when introducing herself to gay men and transwomen who are at risk of getting HIV just like she once was. Having borne the stigma of being a transgender and living under the shadow of HIV as a sex worker, this autorickshaw driver in Northwest Delhi is now a crusader for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. As a volunteer at an NGO, she is also committed to helping trans people be what they are: human beings who can bring value to society regardless of their sexuality. From a very young age, Sanjana, now in her 40s, knew that she was different. Born a boy, the eldest of five siblings, she liked dressing up and dancing like a woman. She had crushes on boys from her neighbourhood. But scared of what her estranged father and neighbours would say, she never revealed her gender identity. She loved to dance like a girl but her family would frighten her, saying if she danced like kinnars, they would take her away. “My mother loved and supported me but she, too, would call me beta. So, I presented myself as a son for a long time.”

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