Aryan Pasha was six years old when he walked up to his parents and told them that he refused to go to school in a girl’s school uniform. ”I was a boy, how could I have worn a girl’s uniform,” he told VICE. “No one knew I was a girl in my school. I posed as a boy for 19 years, till class 12.”
Pasha began transitioning when he was 18. The 26-year-old lawyer recently quit his job to prepare for and compete in the Transman Bodybuilding Competition in America. However he wasn't granted a visa.
VICE met up with Pasha at his second home—the gym—to talk about identity, his love of sports and his regrets.
VICE: You knew you were a boy at an early age. What was school like as a result?
Aryan Pasha: My name was Naiyla Pasha, but due to the enormous Punjabi population there, they called me Nehla.
I was a national level skating champion. But because I was listed as “female” in official records, I was in the girls’ team. Skating was my passion, I thought I could do it. My coach knew about me; so, whenever I changed before a performance, he used to lock my entire team in a room. To preserve my identity from them.
You asserted your identity early on?
I always used the boys’ washroom. It was very difficult, I had to make sure that no one else was in there, like after recess. When everyone was sitting in class, I made my escape. Like everywhere else, the boys' washroom was very notorious. They push you, peek inside the holes or knock on the cabins. I always had to be very careful.
How did you manage puberty?
I always knew that I was a boy. But when the puberty hit, I got to know ways in which I was different from other boys. There is not much visible difference between boys and girls till the puberty, but after that, I realised this is wrong. This is not me. This is not how a boy grows. I started realising that I had to do something to get myself okay.
I had periods for almost six years. That was the worst part. While bleeding down there, I posed as a boy and hang out with boys all day. I was an athlete, I had to travel along with my team. I always used to carry sanitary pads with me, hiding it from everyone else.
Even now, I don't believe how I lived like that. It is one of those things I don't want to talk about or share with anyone.
Did you masturbate before transitioning?
Never. You’re talking about masturbation, I never even saw myself naked in the mirror. It was discomforting, disgusting and depressing.
How did your family feel about your decision?
Everyone around me saw me growing as a boy. So when I decided to get surgery, it was no shock. You get it, it was a gradual thing for them.
My family was always very supportive. They never forced anything down my throat, they let it be my choice. At first my dad thought it was just a phase. My siblings never treated me like I was someone else, they always look up to me as their big brother.
My stepmother studied psychology, and she was the one who explained everything about the surgery. She always encouraged me, but never pushed me for anything.
You’ve also been open about your transition.
Some of my close friends got to know about me when I was in class 12 and started talking shit behind my back. My best friend went to my girlfriend and told her, “I’m here, why are you dating that chhakka.” It was the worst.
There is a lot of stigma around trans-culture. But I don't care, Mujhe koi bole toh, faad dunga [say anything, and I’ll tear you apart].
I didn't get into Delhi University because of my transition. My 10th mark sheet said female while my college form said male. They didn’t get it, and I couldn’t explain it. It was in 2011, and the NALSA judgement hadn’t taken place.
Now the situation is different, though the bill is not ready, the judgement is there. Ab toh kisi ke bhi muh par fekk kar mar do judgement [I can throw that judgment in anyone’s face]. I want the government and the Constitution of India to protect our rights, cover our medical expenses. No insurance company covers these surgeries, it all comes under cosmetics for them. It is not cosmetics for any trans person. Government hospitals should take up these cases at minimal cost.
Have you dated much?
I ran away from girls all my life. It might be because I was not comfortable in that body, so I didn't want to come any closer to them.
I’m dating a trans woman right now. If I can pull off my shirt in front of 10 people it is because of her. This is more of an emotional and very less of a physical relationship.
What about your bodybuilding career?
I’m looking forward to opening my own gym franchise in the NCR next year, which I might spread nationally soon.
From representing the trans community in trans-male fitness competitions, I’m now looking at international level male fitness competitions. I know I would win in a trans-male face-off but I want to compete against other men. Why tick trans-male when I’m male?
Right now, I’m looking to compete in MuscleMania India.
You transitioned at such a young age, is there anything you regret?
I’m not fertile. I’m disappointed that I didn’t freeze my eggs when I could have. I had the operation at very young age, and didn’t think of all these things at that time. If I had the chance to go back and freeze my eggs, I would.