First batch of 3 transgender students join Maharaja's College

First set of 3 transgender students join Maharaja's College
Daya Gayathri, Praveen Nath and Theertha Sarvika are the three transgender students who joined Maharaja's college, Ernakulam, after a long fight for rights.

Kochi: For Daya Gayathri, life is not about finding yourself but creating oneself. This 23-year-old, who joined the BA Malayalam course at Maharaja's College, Ernakulam, is in her second innings at the institution. She had completed the BA Economics course, enrolled as a 'male' student in the 2013 batch. Now, Daya is one among the three transgender students who joined the college after a long fight for rights. the other two, Theertha Sarvika and Praveen Nath, have joined the BA English course.

The Kerala education department, on July 3, issued a circular directing the reservation of two additional seats for transgender applicants in all courses in universities and affiliated arts and science colleges. The order came on a petition by the three students to the district transgender welfare committee. It was forwarded to the education minister's office on priority.


Daya told Onmanorama that she was 'reliving her nostalgia on her second innings on the campus.' “I am familiar with these corridors, classrooms and pavements. But the college knows only a timid boy who suppressed his internal struggles and faced a major identity crisis every day. I am back as a bold woman. I face my peers proudly and present myself before them in my real identity. Now, I know I could do this at this point of time just because I am born in Kerala,” she said. Daya expressed her gratitude towards her teachers and classmates who accepted her as one among them without any hesitation.

Daya hails from a middle-class, progressive household which accepted their child as she is. Her mother encouraged her to continue her studies after a sex-reassignment surgery and supported her to carry forward a normal social life.

For Praveen Nath, the struggle is still on. The only trans-man among the crowd, Praveen was expelled from his Nenmara house where he has his parents and three elder brothers. “No one in my family accepted me. I had to leave my house and seek the help of self-help groups for my surgery. Now, I am an adopted son of Sajna Shaji, a trans-woman herself. I aspire to venture out into social work. I want to help other people like me, who are trapped in the wrong body and wrong social identity,” Praveen said. Praveen Nath was a student of BA History at NSS College, Nenmara last year. He had to discontinue his studies following the humiliation he faced from his teachers and classmates after he revealed his true identity.

Theertha Sarvika is a born fighter. Theertha completed her BTech from the BTC College of Engineering and Technology, Koothattukulam. It is during her seventh semester that she finally decided to reveal her real gender identity. “Some of my best friends cried. Some tried to take me to counseling centers. Some thought that I was playing fraud for publicity and a job with Kochi Metro, which was inducting trans-genders. After working for a while with Kochi Metro, I decided to join Maharaja's College for BA English. Many people including my family sought to know why I wanted a bachelor's again after BTech. For me, this is the first educational programme which gave me an admission accepting my real identity. I consider this an award, a recognition,” Theertha said.

Though Theertha's parents tried to discourage her in the initial phase, they supported her financially while she underwent her sex-reassignment surgery and later welcomed her home as a daughter.

Teachers pitch for gender-neutral hostel

“There are more students on this campus, who hide their real gender/sexual identities. I urge all of them to reveal their real identities and present themselves proudly as they are. No student shall fear to live their real life on this campus,” Sreekala, associate professor with the department of Malayalam, Maharaja's College, told Onmanorama.
Sreekala said that there was more to be done on Kerala's campuses to help transgenders lead a normal social life. “I suggest the introduction of a gender-neutral hostel where any student can take an admission irregardless of gender. Kerala, with its educational capital, should spearhead such a reformation in the nation,” she said.

PK Ansari, head of the department, English, said washrooms shoudl be altered in a a gender-neutral manner. “As a department head, I am proud to host Theertha and Praveen in the English literature classes. This is the part of a far bigger social transformation which is evolving slowly. We need to alter all our infrastructure so as to suit people from all identities. It is high time public infrastructure is liberated from the binaries,” he said.

However, Daya says she feels her old male identity as a different person now, whom she'd like to befriend. “I search for the old me on the corners of this campus. I wish I could find him somewhere, befriend him and support him through his struggles. Anyway, I hope I can meet other people who are struggling to reveal their real gender identities here so that I can be a source of motivation, support and friendship for them,” she said with a determined smile.

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