“My identity was questioned at every point in my life — by my parents, relatives, acquaintances, and also the previous companies where I had worked. But I am who I am. It can’t be changed. All I need is acceptance. When I came to Flipkart, it was as if I had been shown a ray of light inside a dark forest. I felt relieved. I am Sanam Khan, a Team Lead at Flipkart, and a proud trans woman."
As told to Krithika Shekhar and Theertha Dhanesh Kumar.
I come from a small village in Maharashtra. I lived with my parents and my two sisters until I had to run away from home.
I was born a boy. But I never felt like one.
I was out of place both inside my body and at home, where one usually feels a sense of belonging. Every night I used to cry myself to sleep. I simply didn’t know what was going on with me and why I felt so displaced. This didn’t help my studies either. I had to repeat many classes during the course of my schooling.
Listen to Sanam’s story in her own voice, in this podcast episode:
I remember when I was young, my mother used to buy frocks for my sisters and I would ask her to get them for me too. I too wanted to wear a frock. I viewed myself as a proper girl. I loved doing everything a girl would do.
My mother told me I was a boy and that I needed to behave like one. I would tell her over and over how she was wrong. But everyone needs proof to believe in something and unfortunately for me, my body didn’t help. I understood that my mother couldn’t grasp this like I wanted her to.
I am at peace with who I am. It is my family’s refusal to accept me that hurts me.
The solution to this, according to my mother, was marrying me off. They fixed my wedding with a girl. Despite my ceaseless efforts to make them understand, things just kept getting worse for me. First, the marriage, and later a visit to the psychiatric hospital.
I had to run away from home. That’s how I reached Bengaluru. There was some back and forth when it came to work opportunities, but finally, I found an opportunity with Flipkart.
At Flipkart, everyone is welcoming and treats me with respect, and most importantly, accepts me as a woman. That gives me utmost happiness.
If Flipkart hadn’t given me a chance, I don’t know what I would have done.
When we get work opportunities, we can show our true potential. Many companies don’t hire transgender people. The previous company I worked for insisted that I cut my hair short and dress like a man if I had to keep my job. They said the customers had issues with a trans person as a manager. But I can’t leave my identity behind. This is who I am. And I can only be who I am. All I need is people to understand and accept that.
I am a B.Com graduate. And it is my dream to pursue an MBA. I had to pause my pursuit of higher studies because my family wasn’t ready to back me. There’s been a two-year gap in my studies. Now that I am at Flipkart, things are getting better for me. I am planning to apply soon for night college and I will also request the company to help me balance my work and studies. I am planning to stay on at Flipkart even after my MBA. I have received genuine support at this place. I am not willing to let go of that after all I have been through.
I have a message for everyone reading this: Let everyone live their lives. Don’t laugh at them. Don’t criticize them.
I am Sanam Khan, a Team Lead at Flipkart, and a proud trans woman.
Also read: Voices of Inclusion: Stories from a progressive workplace