In my last post, I discussed how, as a transwoman, I feared for my life during my whole week in Kashmir. But I also received significant validation as a woman during the trip, minor and major.
Minor validation came when a weaver gifted me with a headscarf. I had to ask a teenage girl from one of my host families to teach me how to wear it. I wore it everyday when out in public to show respect for the community I was visiting–just thought it would be good etiquette.
More validation came at a Sufi shrine in Srinagar, where I unknowing sat in the wrong place. I was kindly directed to the spot reserved for women and taught how to sit properly when visiting the shrine.
The most validation came at the White Mosque in Srinagar, where I unintentionally walked into the men’s section of the mosque and was very forcefully ejected to the women’s section. The men who did this were not mean, just forceful. And very physical. They panicked when they saw me walk in to the men’s-only section. I think they felt bad afterward because they offered me some candy. It was simply a misunderstanding. I don’t read or speak Urdu, and they didn’t speak English. I would never have crossed this line had I known the rules.
The primary validation from all these experiences was that I successfully passed as a woman in an environment where failing to pass could prove fatal.
But consider the incident at the White Mosque in greater detail: I was very firmly “put in my place as a woman” by a male-dominated society, which, as I’ve outlined in my post “double agent for the patriarchy”, speaks to a deep craving to participate as a woman within the constraints dictated by the patriarchy for the sake of validation.
This also turns me on.