The transgender community has been on the fringes of society for long and of late organised efforts to improve its lot are being taken by the authorities as well as non-governmental agencies. Colleges are taking special efforts to welcome transgender students and make them feel at ease. Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam, which has left its imprint in every sphere of Kerala history over a century since its modest beginnings, has initiated a likely unprecedented step to empower transgender students. Today, a transgender representative is one among the three nominated members to its student union, the other two being a research representative and a sports councillor.
Though members of the transgender community are now increasingly fighting their way towards significant positions in varied fields, it is for the first time that a special position of power has been earmarked for them with the aim of better understanding and meeting their needs.
Daya Gayathri, who is pursuing her second-year under-graduation in Malayalam Literature, was unanimously recommended as the voice of the transgender community at Maharaja’s College. Daya, 24, is one among the three transgender students who joined the college after a long fight for their rights last academic year. Maharaja’s now has the highest number of students enrolled as transgenders across different colleges in the state. A gender friendly toilet has already opened up in the college taking in to consideration the eight transgender students enrolled here.
Daya who is a writer, activist, theatre artist and motivational speaker is now into her second year at the college. "I will continue to speak for the community till I have voice and work for the community till my last breath," she vowed while stressing that it is equity that we need to bring in at all levels.
Althaf K N is the newly appointed Sports councillor, while A N Shelley became the first research representative of the college. As usual the student union comprises other elected representatives.
Soon after the college election, the newly formed students's union had called up a general meeting of representatives from all the classes to understand the issues that the student community had to face. Thus it was realised that there was a need for including nominated members.
"Maharaja's College has always paid heed to the needs of the unprivileged sections and will continue to do so. The student community of Maharaja's is now setting a model for the entire nation to follow," Dr.Suja T V, staff advisor and faculty of the Department of English, said.
"The college has definitely taken a decision that was the need of the hour," said Angel, a students' representative, on the nominations. "It was very important to give an ear to the needs of transgender community on the campus. The new appointment of a transgender representative to the union is also a gesture to recognise their struggles and hold them closer."
Angel also hoped the appointment of a sports councillor to the union might help the college to improve its performance in this sphere. "Despite numerous sports quota admissions every year, the college could not utilise their talents well. The new post of sports councillor is aimed at aiding and coordinating the needs of promising talents when sports decisions are often overshadowed by politics," Angel added.
The new position of research representative is expected to improve coordination among researchers in pooling their knowledge and talent for the overall academic progress of the institution.