Indian transgender couple announce plan to marry, adopt

Mumbai (AFP) - An Indian couple who fell in love after meeting at a gender-reassignment clinic in Mumbai announced Tuesday they were engaged and planning a traditional wedding.

Aarav Appukuttan, who was born a woman, met Sukanyeah Krishna, who was born a man, in the waiting room of the clinic three years ago where both were undergoing surgery to change their genders.

The couple exchanged numbers after "realising we both cared deeply for one another", and the relationship flourished from there, Appukutan told AFP.

"I just want to spend my entire life with Sukanyeah after our legal marriage," said the 46-year-old, who spent three decades questioning his gender before undergoing surgery to become a man.

"We are awaiting changes to our official documents from the government... after which we plan to get married in Kerala," he added, referring to the southern Indian state.

The couple are aware of no legal obstacles to their marriage, but they are concerned over how it will received by the public.

"Everyone in the transgender community including hijras are abused and face attacks everyday. Families are worried about how society will perceive their trans children, but the society needs to reform," said Krishna.

"Hijras", as they are locally known, are considered a third gender but stigma is rife in India's conservative society. Transgender Indians are often banished to the margins, where they beg or engage in prostitution.

Appukutan has struggled to find work since his surgery, and was denied a visa to Dubai.

21-year-old Krishna, whose parents gave her hormone injections when she expressed a desire to become a woman, said their relationship had attracted criticism, but they were not deterred.

"We receive eviscerating responses from people, and they try to criticise us, so we are trying to set an example for society and younger trans-people by telling our stories," said Krishna.

The couple is planning a traditional Hindu wedding, and wants to adopt a child once their marriage is legally solemnised.

"We want a child in our life despite our biological limitations, so we will adopt. All our lives will be changed for the better and we will be a complete family," said Appukuttan.