Anjeli: Hinduism, Unity and Making a Difference

Anjeli grew up as part of the Hindu community in Leicester, before moving to London with her family when she was ten years old.

One of the first times she realised she was different was when her grandmother, who was very religious, gave her a video series to watch called Ramayan, a story of the fundamentals of the Hindu religion. Anjeli’s brother was aligned with the male, macho characters, and Anjeli aligned more with a female character called Sita. It highlighted to Anjeli the differences between her and her brother. He was sporty and liked to go and watch football with their male relatives, while Anjeli would makes excuses and preferred to stay at home with her female relatives.

She had always been in denial in her teens, that her gender identity was a phase that would pass. When she started university, she knew she couldn’t ignore it any longer and she came out to her family and friends. She initially came out to her family as gay.

‘I sat down with them when I was 16 or 17 years old, I sat down with my father and my mother and my brother within our living room and I basically said, well, I’m gay. Because for me, at that point in time, with the foregone knowledge that I wasn’t, it was a situation where I thought, OK, well, this is going to slightly soften the blow, if that makes sense. Because I think with a lot of Indian culture, it’s about society and it’s about being seen to do the right quote thing as opposed to actually living your life and being the true you, so for me, I thought perhaps I could appease them by saying, well, I’ll still get a good job, I’ll still do the other things you want me to do, but I’m gay, and that didn’t go down too well.’

When she later came out as trans, her family were not accepting or supportive and thought it was a phase. Over time, their attitudes have changed, helped by the fact that Anjeli has a successful career – Anjeli feels that the Asian community places too much importance on work, money and social status. She now lives with her family again, which represents significant progress in their relationship.

Hinduism itself is not prescriptive about how you should live.

Hinduism is actually a very tolerant religion… There isn’t anything in our scriptures that says, actually, you cannot live your life a certain way, you cannot do this. It’s more about love, it’s more about compassion. It’s more about understanding.

Today Anjeli is active in several LGBT networks and organises events; She mentions Club Kali, which she used to go to when she first started to transition, and so she feels it is a safe space.

At Ernst & Young, there is a network called Unity, of which Anjeli is an active member, organising events. They are hosting trans* formation’s second birthday in September, and has contributed to Stonewall’s guidelines and conference. Following hearing Anjeli speak, someone got in touch to say hearing her story made a difference to their life. Anjeli wants to touch people with her story if it can help them.

‘The significance of religion, it can be both a blessing and a burden, if I’m completely honest. It can be a blessing in the sense that you get so much from it, but it can also be a burden since people can often feel bogged down by a set of principles that they believe they must live their lives by.’

She urges people to understand the basic principles of their religion rather than accepting other people’s interpretations of religion – no religion tells you you should not be happy.