Dear K,

School is tough right now. I know you feel alone when your “friends” do not include you in playing on their sports teams. I know you feel harassed when they throw your bag away or when they hit you on the head. I know you feel uncomfortable when you go to sit down after standing up to answer a question in class, only to find they quickly placed a pen on your seat. And those teachers do not pay the same attention to you as they do to your friends. I know that not all your friends treat you this way and that although some of them support you, you still feel alone.

Those “friends” use bad words like “chhakka” or “hijada”, and this will not be the last time you hear them. You will have many experiences ahead of you. You will walk down the street, and a police officer will think you are involved in some illegal activities and beat you very badly. Another time, two people will forcefully take you without your consent. You will ask a police officer to help you and rescue you, only to hear him refuse, saying: “Who told you to go there? Our duty is only to help normal people. We don’t have any responsibility towards chhakka or hijada."

This will not have been your first experience of violence. You’ll first meet a boy in 8th standard, and you’ll receive a proposal from him. He’ll tell you he is bisexual, and you will go home and explore what this means because you never learnt it at school. You will explore what your own identity is and come to know you are attracted to males. Fast forward to 10th standard: the same boy will invite you to his hostel, and you’ll only go because you loved him, and his one word lured you there. He will force himself on you and physically abuse you at the moment and will then later blackmail you with threats to expose your sexual orientation.

But you will never need to worry about disclosing your sexual orientation to your family. They will come to accept your sexual orientation and, later, your gender identity on their own. The first phase will be rejection, next tolerance until finally, they accept you. You will be open about your sexual orientation everywhere, including on social media. You will not feel as though you need to hide it or even show it. We believe being open is our quality, power and strength. It is not our weakness. K, I can now proudly represent myself as a trans woman, and I am happy about it.

Uncle is also a trans woman. Maybe uncle does not want to disclose his gender identity, so most of the time, even in our childhood, he dresses like a male, and occasionally he dresses like a female. Seeing our uncle when we were children made us realize that we wanted to be female. Our family is very helpful these days; even when others ask about our identity, they give good responses and are always ready to help us with anything we need. All our brothers, sisters, family members and neighbours are also ready to help.

K, you will have many experiences ahead of you. You will become an established makeup artist while also doing other things that you love. Remember, as a child, you did not want to be a burden to anyone. Well, you will be independent and support others. You will become a PrEP champion, spreading awareness among actual friends. You will feel secure, encouraged and safe because of HIV prevention programmes. You will even go on to inspire others in many ways, including by appearing on a reality TV show. Many people will message you and support you.

K, it does not matter where you have come from, what your gender identity is, or what kind of work you do. What matters is your self-confidence, and this will inspire other people as well. They will look at you and say, "If they can do it, then why can’t I too?"

Yours warmly,