In Himal Southasian, Satya Rai Nagpaul reviews A. Revathi’s The Truth About Me: A hijra life story:
A Revathi is a hijra, a woman, a daughter, a guru, a chela, a sister, a wife, a lover, a sex worker, a parental figure and a sexuality-rights activist. I met her in 2004, the period of her life about which she writes towards the end of this book. I had gone to Bangalore to mourn the death of Famila, a radical queer activist who had committed suicide. There was deep grief, particularly in the hijra families of South India and the queer circuits of Bangalore, Bombay and Delhi. At the time, Revathi had also separated from a prominent queer activist, whom she had married about a year earlier, trying to find the love and acceptance that she desired through the institution of marriage. Closely following on the heels of this was the brutal murder of Revathi’s guru. Amidst all this, and despite her personal situation, Revathi started a research project on the transgender community in Tamil Nadu, the aravanis. This ability of Revathi ‘to go on despite herself and her life circumstance’ inhabits every page of her autobiography, The Truth About Me.
As I finished reading the book, I felt I had witnessed a life that could have been mine. Having been born female-bodied but with an irrepressible desire for masculinity makes me feel very close to Revathi’s experience of being born male-bodied and identifying as a female. In the world of queer activists – driven so often by political correctness, ideological positions, tokenism and clique dynamics – Revathi is a rare breed. In my experience and in the pages of her autobiography, she not only remains grounded in her humanness and retains an unapologetic emotional clarity, but expects the same of others – and is very disturbed when she does not find it. This spirit weaves together the various threads of Revathi’s account of her own story. More: