It took immense courage for this 26-year-old transgender to be standing in the grounds of St Joseph evening college as she became the state’s first transsexual student.
Struggle, hard work, harassment, torture, rape are not just terms for Suma M, who is pursuing a bachelors in Journalism, Political Science and Sociology (J.P.S) at the college in Bangalore. “I applied for admission at many places like Bangalore University, Maharani College and IGNOU but I was denied admission everywhere due to my sex. Since Akkai Padmashali, transgender activist, had a good relationship with St Joseph administration, they immediately admitted me. I am thankful to the institution,” she said.
Before joining college, Suma had a 9 am to 6 pm job. She will now be managing studies and work at the same time as she also has to support her family. She said, “The teachers are very helpful and I have made friends here. So, I do not feel exhausted. I finally feel that I’m at the right place.”
Suma has had a dark past because of the kind of horrors she faced. It was in 2005 when she was studying BBM in a reputed college in Bangalore when it all began. She narrated, “It was then that I started feeling that I was a female in a male’s body. My classmates used to imitate me even though I was good at studies. I never answered any questions asked by the teachers out of shame. Unable to cope up with the physical and mental harassment, I left studies.”
She thought she could be happy at home but she was wrong. “My family too thought that I had a mental problem and took me to NIMHANS where the doctor ‘taught’ me how to walk. I did try but it was very hard for me. Then they took me to a temple as that did not work. They locked me inside a room for two months,” she said.
Suma finally escaped home and joined the Hamam. “I became a sex worker. Life was not easy. I got raped multiple times by goons, I had nowhere to go. After three years in this trade, I had my physiotherapy and sex reassignment surgery done from the money I had saved,” she said.
After three years of sex work, she quit the profession forever. She started working at Samara, an NGO for sexual minorities where she got promoted as its director. She then shifted to Equations where she is currently handling a website. “Though I am good at work, I always wanted to get educated and that’s when I started approaching universities for admission,” she said.
When Suma was asked why she chose journalism, she said, “Journalists have the power to bring about a change in the society. People choose different tools to identify social injustices. I chose journalism.”
Head of Political Science Department Dr. Christopher said, “The management has taken a bold step by granting an admission to Suma. We are not only teaching human rights to our students but also practicing it.”
“We can’t discriminate them just because they are different. Many transgenders are not even given an opportunity. Who knows they might be better than the other students! The stigma with transsexuals persists even though we live in the IT hub. We hope other colleges take up this initiative too and give them an opportunity,” he expressed.
Rune Regina, a classmate of Suma, thinks of her as friendly and enthusiastic towards studies. She said, “This is the first time I have a transgender as my classmate. It is our responsibility to make her feel conformable in the college. Everyone has the right to get educated regardless of their appearance.