Designer Saisha Shinde Talks To ELLE About Living Her Truth As A Transgender Woman

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”- Maya Angelou. A quote I recollected when I first came across Saisha Shinde’s brave story. Formerly known as designer Swapnil Shinde, Saisha recently came out in public about her transition as a transgender woman. In a detailed post, Shinde spoke about her journey as a confused kid and tormented young adult who was bullied for being different. But more importantly, she spoke about discovering herself early on, but still, continue staging a life that fit the mould created for a heterosexual man in a patriarchal society.

It was only in her 20s that she came out as a gay man, but it was much later in life when she uncovered her whole truth. About six years ago, Saisha finally admitted to herself that she wasn’t a gay man but a transgender woman, and began the journey that led to its public announcement. Even after being diagnosed as gender dysphoric, the road of transition ahead is far from easy.

A process that requires a nod of approval from your therapist, endocrinologist and MD, after a chain of physical and mental tests that deem you fit for the process, you finally begin your transformation. While she knew her truth, the societal conditioning that labelled her, a handsome man made her hesitant about taking the plunge. It was during the lockdown when she finally took the decision and graced the world with the presence of the very beautiful Saisha Shinde. In a detailed conversation with ELLE India, the designer talks about her journey, society’s stigmas, and what the future holds for her.

In your post, you said it was six years ago that you came to terms with your actual gender identity. What gave you the courage to come out publically?

About six years ago, I came to know I have gender dysphoria with the help of therapy, but the acceptance that this is how I want to live happened a few months ago during the lockdown. As much as I would have loved to have accepted this earlier, the acceptance from within took a lot of time. I have always been a very open person, as far as who I am is concerned, and my sexual identity is concerned, so I wasn’t ready to go public with it until I was sure about this. For a person who is as private as I am, it took a lot of thinking, as coming out with something this important, it would entail a lot of responsibility. But once I made that decision, I didn’t think twice and went about living my truth.

In this difficult phase, who were your pillars of strength? 

My parents have been instrumental in who I am today. Not just my sexual identity, but even as far as my profession is concerned, they’ve been very supportive. My father has been absolutely amazing in this entire process; he wanted to know about all the expenses with regards to my surgery, and how I had to go to the best surgeon, as just any doctor wouldn’t make the cut. My hope is that parents everywhere show this level of support. I hope every kid is as blessed as I am to get a set of parents like mine who have been trailblazers, I would also like to credit my friends who have been my pillars, backbones and have known everything from day one, and they have always been there.

What are some of the misperceptions about transgender people that our society has?

The transgender community is almost treated like caricatures and isn’t taken seriously. They are objectified and vilified. I think it is important to take us for the human beings we are and understand that we have the potential to be what we want to be.

What more historic changes need to be brought about for wider acceptance towards the transgender community?

I think it’s crucial to have a lot of people come out and talk about it just like it is another aspect of their lives. It has to be normalised; the moment you normalise it, there will not be any stigma associated with it. As the human race evolved, we’ve all become so much more accepting than we were a couple of years ago—especially the younger generation, as they are far more accepting than anyone else. If important people from important walks of life come out and talk about it, the disgrace around this subject will diminish, and conversation about it will be regularized.

How can allies contribute to generating more awareness and education of the community?

It is very simple, the more you talk about it, the more awareness you create. We need to accept that this is not something that happens to somebody one fine day. Your sexual identity is something you are born with; the acceptance around it is what takes time. There is so much stigma and very little knowledge and awareness about this, even if you are a transgender person, how do you identify it? As a kid in school and college, I didn’t even know what being transgender meant. I didn’t even know what being gay meant. Later in life, when I researched and read about it, I understood that I am a gay man, and after digging further, I realised I am not a gay man, but a transgender woman. I think it is of utmost importance that people who are aware and are knowledgeable, especially those with a platform to influence, need to talk about this.

How does the road ahead look? 

The road ahead looks absolutely amazing, and I am an extremely positive person; I believe in happiness and happiness only. It is very simple; you give respect, you get respect. You give love, it comes back to you, do all of it with honestly, and it all turns out fine. It’s the simplest thing to do if you have purity in your heart, that is what has worked for me. It has helped me to look at the road ahead with as much positivity as I can. For sure, there is a great journey ahead of me, inspiring a lot of people and living my truth without any inhibitions and regrets.

- Junior Digital Editor


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