How can I forget this date? That was the day they told me I had HIV and that I would live only for one year,?? says 66-year-old Noori Saleem, a transgender activist in Chennai.
Born Noor Mohammed at Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu, he had run away from home when he was 13, tired of being bullied about his feminine gait and of frequent beatings from his father. ?I was employed by a Chettiar family in Chennai. I earned my living by washing utensils and clothes. That is also when I discovered the girl in me,? Noori says. He was 18 when his father died, and he returned home to pay his respects. When he realised he would be forced into marrying a woman, he ran away again ? this time to Mumbai. ?I met Pattama, a transgender, and stayed at her house. I performed at weddings, dancing and singing at birth ceremonies. Soon I was thrown into commercial sex work. I also met my partner, who was from Beed in Maharashtra. He loved me for who I was and was not bothered that I was a transgender or hijra. We went to Chennai but as it was difficult to make ends meet, I continued sex work,? she says.