Life has been anything but kind towards Urooz Husain (27), a transwoman from Bhagalpur, a small town in Bihar. Despite being bullied all through school, sexually harassed at her workplace later on, and every now and then being subjected to various snide remarks, this gritty transwoman has gone on to make the most of her life.
Urooz is a social worker, model, and an entrepreneur who established her own restaurant in Noida called Street Temptations. In this conversation with The Better India, she bares it all and talks about how difficult life has been and how she managed to create her own path against all odds.
A woman trapped in a man’s body
“I was born a boy but I don’t think I ever fully understood my identity as a ‘male’. While my family treated me like a boy, I never felt it. I was always inclined towards behaving like a girl,” she says. Urooz mentions how she was often taunted for her behavior and that always left her feeling very hurt. For her, behaving like a girl came naturally and in trying to be like a boy, she had to put up an act.
As Urooz grew up, she started withdrawing into her own shell. She says, “Until class 8 I remember being an extrovert and then suddenly things started changing and I was getting more and more conscious of my body.” Urooz recalls the various times during her adolescence when she was sexually harassed both by “relatives” and “friends”.
These incidents impacted her a great deal and left her scarred.
A majority of Urooz’s friends during her school years were all girls and she says that a lot of their conversations revolved around makeup and accessories. “One of my happy memories from my school days was applying lipstick stealthily and feeling so good about it,” she says. While all this was happening with Urooz, she was very scared to confess to her parents about what she was feeling.
‘I spent many nights curled up outside places of worship’
“My childhood was never a happy one, it was dark and rather confusing,” says Urooz, who adds she was constantly battling loneliness. She speaks about how difficult it was even for her mother to openly support her because she feared Urooz’s father would not approve. It was with great difficulty that Urooz completed her schooling from Bhagalpur and left for Delhi to pursue further studies. “Even that was not an easy move for me. I was always taunted for the way I behaved and being referred to with various slurs became a part of my existence,” she says with deep anguish.
It was during the time she was pursuing her hospitality management course in Delhi that she was yet again harassed by her classmates in college. “I did not know that I could go through a surgery at that time, and even if I could have known, I did not have the money for it. So, I continued to live on like that,” she says. The cycle of harassment never completely stopped and Urooz recalls how even during her internship period in Delhi when she was staying with four other boys in an accommodation, many nights were spent curled up outside places of worship just to escape the harassment she was subjected to by her roommates.
Urooz decided to undergo a sex-change operation and from there her journey to collect funds began. “The entire process took more than one year and I used all the money that I had saved from the time I was an intern until the day I decided to get the procedure done,” says Urooz. Having worn many hats, Urooz was able to collect the funds that were needed but says she is not comfortable divulging how much the entire procedure cost her.
‘Did not accept myself for the longest time’
Being in a city like Delhi helped Urooz meet many others like herself, and she says, “Until then I always thought of myself as ‘different’ and suddenly I did not feel so alone.” In 2014 Urooz contacted a doctor in the national capital and started the hormonal treatment under him. “Even then I wasn’t entirely sure of what I wanted and therefore even underwent a psychometric test, which evaluates personality traits and aptitude, amongst other things, before finally deciding on getting the treatment done,” she says.
During the transition phase, Urooz stayed almost in isolation because of all the changes that she was physically going through. “My breasts were developing; my face structure was changing and I decided to spend that time with myself — just working on being a better version of me each day,” she says. The entire transition takes almost one year and Urooz mentions that the medication for this cost her almost Rs 4000 per month.
Once the transition was completely done, Urooz started thinking of ways in which she could give back and do something for her trans community. “Having gone through all my experiences, I knew I had to do this,” she says.
My way of giving back
On 21 November 2019, Street Temptations, Urooz started a restaurant in Noida. Even that was not an easy journey since no one was willing to give retail space to a trans woman. Urooz invested almost 7 lakhs into getting the restaurant up and running and while it did well in 2019, the pandemic struck in 2020 and everything came to a standstill. “Unfortunately, it’s been a tough year and things are just about looking up now. I had to not just deal with the COVID-19 pandemic but also the judgments that came my way because of being a transwoman,” she shares.
The restaurant employs seven staff members who have been getting a salary all through the lockdown period as well, says Urooz. The stereotype is to see transwoman open salons and boutiques and Urooz wanted to break that mould and do something different. She says, “Pre-COVID, I had two transwomen working at the restaurant, but they unfortunately had to go back home during the lockdown. I am actively looking to hire people from the trans community, it was one of the reasons I started afterall.”
When asked how people can help and support her, she says, “I’d love for people to come and dine at the restaurant – nothing will make me happier.”
Besides being an entrepreneur, Urooz also is the co-founder of I Love Noida and has been actively supporting a various small organisations in the city, especially during the lockdown period when they had no money or savings to dip into. If you wish to reach out to Urooz, you can contact her via her Instagram page.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)