The wedding reception on February 18, at Kolkata’s Vespa Hotel, was a typical Bengali affair. A hundred guests, comprising close friends and relatives, were invited. The food was Bengali too – it included kosha mangsho or mutton curry, fish, fried savouries, rice and dal, gulab jamuns and soft drinks with desserts. The bride wore a Benarasi sari and the groom looked dapper in kurta and dhoti. The two had been childhood sweethearts. Once the court documents were signed, Shree Muhuri became the first transgender person from Kolkata and Bengal to be legally wedded.
Shree, 30, is a Kolkata-based theatre personality and a trans-woman who has frequently spoken about the rights of the transgender community in Kolkata. The process of getting married was not easy, even for her. “Given the status that a transgender has in our society, it was really difficult to win over our respective parents,” she told Scroll.in, a day after the ceremony.
Shree’s partner, Sanjay Muhuri, is a marketing consultant with a multinational corporation in Kolkata. The two had first met as a pair of fourteen-year-olds and as time passed, Shree said she fell in love with her friend.
“I had always felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body,” she said. “I felt terrible being attracted to a man and to feel for him just like a woman did. It felt socially wrong, but then I was so helpless, I felt so guilty. What made it worse was the fact that no one understood me. Luckily for me, Sanjay did. But then we had our parents, who were dead against it.”
As a transgender child, Shree had borne ridicule, taunts and violence. Until she met Sanjay, her mother was the only one who understood that she felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body. Other family members were less accepting. “I was shut in a room, beaten and abused by elders,” she said. “What would they do? We were from middle class family and society acceptance is important in such families. My being queer added to their agony.”
Sanjay too was ridiculed at his workplace for having a transgender partner. Finally, her mother’s acceptance and support made it feasible for Shree to undergo a sex reassignment surgery in 2015. Shree’s relationship with both families – Sanjay’s and her own – improved once she underwent the surgery: “in fact my in-laws have now welcomed me with open arms,” she said.
In the past, while marriages did take place in the transgender community, they were usually low-key and kept private. “But I didn’t want my wedding to happen that way,” Shree said. “Transgenders were recognised as the third gender in 2014 – we have been given equal rights, so why couldn’t I marry the legal way?”
While Shree was adamant that her marriage follow proper legal procedure, there was one glitch: she still had not received all the legal documentation pertaining to her changed gender. “It took me a year to get the necessary documents,” she said. “The moment I received them, we decided to get our marriage registered.”
The marriage was attended by well-known faces from the trans-community, such as actor Tista Das, Dr Manobi Bandyopadyay, India’s first transgender principal, and Rajita Sinha, secretary of the Association of Transgenders/Hijras in Bengal.