Fighting against diabetes through dance, as a trans person

minute read
February 27, 2023
A dancer practicing her craft.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story. Photo credit - Ron Lach.

My name is Rimal. I was born male but now identify as female.

When I was 3, my family learned that I was suffering from Klinefelter’s syndrome (I have an extra copy of the X chromosome). At 15, they stopped accepting me. I also stopped attending school due to discrimination from classmates.

From that point on, the Guru looked after me. She cared for me as a mother.

But to survive and meet daily expenses, I started dancing at weddings, parties, and other events.

And I became friends with Pinki, who every day sat behind me, applied my makeup, and gave me a prominent look.

My initial diabetes diagnosis

One day while performing at a party, I fell down and lost consciousness. Pinki took me to the hospital, but at first, the doctor refused to see me because I didn’t identify as male or female.

Eventually, a female doctor convinced an old male doctor to examine me. He made me take a blood test.

This led to my diagnosis of diabetes.

The doctor said I’d been suffering from type 1 diabetes for 5 months, but I hadn’t recognised the symptoms.

As my only income was dancing at weddings and parties, I couldn’t get proper treatment.

My symptoms

Because my routine as a dancer was hectic, I started feeling tired and thirsty all the time. And when I performed at parties, I needed to urinate every half hour.

1 year after my diabetes diagnosis, I was diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Unfortunately, I struggled to get help.

Whenever I went to the hospital, I was treated rudely. Not only doctors but also patients were aggressive toward me and reminded hospital peons to kick me toward male wards and male doctors – Transgender people are not considered humans in most cultures and still face inequalities.

I often had abdominal pain and was in a severe state of hypoglycemia. Sometimes my blood sugar was too high, and sometimes it was extremely low. My diabetes symptoms never seemed to match what other diabetics were going through.

However, I did experience all of the most common symptoms. I suffered from increased urination and thirst, cuts on my feet, wounds that wouldn’t stop bleeding, exhaustion, blurred vision, and weight loss.

Struggling without health care coverage

As a transgender person, I have no healthcare coverage. I was refused healthcare by doctors, nursing staff, and healthcare providers because of gender discrimination.

Not having healthcare coverage is very irritating.

Facing such arrogant and discriminatory behaviour, I decided not to visit the hospital again – The healthcare system has failed to provide proper examination and medication to the trans community.

Lack of legal protection was also a common issue whenever I visited a hospital. Security personnel and other people (mostly men) tried to touch me for no reason. I repeatedly faced harassment and discrimination, comments on my body, and other issues I can’t discuss – It’s an ongoing cycle of violence.

Losing my only income

Trying to cope with my situation was mentally exhausting, and I was constantly stressed.

This started to impact my dancing. Whenever I started my performance, I forgot the dance steps. This loss of memory made me anxious.

People stopped calling me to perform, cutting off my only source of income.

Failing to manage my stress

Unable to control my stress, I started to sometimes behave abnormally. I often shouted at my friends and peers.

My brain cells were becoming damaged as well, and sometimes I suffered from neural shocks.

My diabetes was becoming life-threatening. The small veins in my toes started breaking, and wounds took a long time to heal.

And still, I could earn no money.

Finding dance again and getting healthy

Not earning any money from dancing, I started begging on the street. By this point, I’d become used to people’s behaviour toward me, and I was okay with my body.

But because I’d stopped dancing and listening to music, I was putting on weight.

Pinki advised me to express myself through dance and music, dancing not for other people but for me.

For transgenders, music and dance are our whole life. Our survival depends on it. Even if dancing in society, or at weddings or parties, isn’t the best place to show our thoughts.

Every day, Pinki applied makeup to my face and helped me relax. She helped me start living my own life again.

Balancing my sugar levels

To balance my sugar levels, I regularly took insulin tablets. However, I needed to be a more self-motivated version of myself, with a higher vision, to find inner peace and not judge myself as a transgender.

I didn’t want to hide my inner self and thoughts anymore.

Dancing allowed me to express my identity, and every day I danced for 3 hours. It was great physical exercise and kept both my body and mind healthy.

Dance became my daily body workout plan. It increased my body flexibility and made my muscles stronger. My hormones became more balanced, and so did my insulin levels.

Music and dancing helped me connect my physical and mental health.

How dance and music workouts helped me

After I started dancing again, not only did my muscle strength increase and my body become more flexible, but I also stopped suffering from long-bleeding cuts and wounds. And I balanced my weight, improved my coordination, found my confidence, stopped blaming my own identity, and got relief from my abdominal pain.

Importantly, with greater self-confidence my social skills also got better – This was all thanks to Pinki and her helping nature.

When you know you’re doing great things and accept your own identity and personality, then your workout is for your physical and mental health. And no one can destroy your mental peace or physical state, no matter whether you’re transgender, male or female.

Final thoughts

It’s well known today that diabetes is a silent killer. It stresses you not only mentally but also physically.

To manage diabetes, first, find your inner peace – Your mental health will lead you toward balanced sugar levels and physical health.

By relaxing, you can avoid serious complications. And a dance workout can certainly help with that.

Graphic of a female profile picture.
Rimal Shah

Rimal Shah is a transgender type 1 diabetic. She dances for a living, as well as to support her physical and mental health. She believes the first step in managing diabetes is to find your inner peace.

Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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