Jan 27, 2017, 02.55 AM IST

NEW DELHI: When Ishana, a transgender, earned her BA degree from Delhi University’s School of Open Learning, she thought she could take a leap of faith and try to be ‘normal’. So she applied for a call centre job, only to learn that it is almost impossible to break out of a stereotype in India. “The manager at the call centre asked me why I was dressed like a woman if I was a man. On hearing this, the other employees started sniggering,” said Ishana. “It was humiliating. He also asked me why I liked putting on makeup and growing my hair and not staying the way I was born.”

The experience dented her confidence, but she gamely approached some more companies, making sure to mention in her application that she was a transgender. “They either called to say ‘we cannot give a job to someone like you’ or I never heard from them,” said Ishana.

Armed she may be with her provisional bachelor’s degree, but Ishana found no recourse other than to fall back on dancing at weddings and make the most of the party season. It is one more in a series of hardships she has borne in trying to be true to her real self. The daughter of a rickshaw puller, getting an education was not easy in the circumstances of her lifestyle choice. Her friends related how she had to sometimes walk the 4km to college in order to avoid the lewd remarks of the rickshaw pullers. Several times she thought of dropping out of college, but was urged to carry on.

Rehana, a BA final year student at SOL, said that though she has begun not to care about the jibes she faces every day, college education can only benefit the transgender community if a strong foundation is set in school. But as she herself narrated, she had a traumatic time in school. “The teachers in my government school used to join in the jokes made at my expense. The principal once pulled my hair and threatened action if I didn’t abide by the grooming standards set for boys,” she said.

Amy, another transgender, dropped out of SOL because she faced both verbal and physical harassment. “Even the guards used to touch me inappropriately under the pretext of frisking me for security reasons,” the 20-year-old deplored.
And yet, after bearing such a burden to be able to flaunt a college degree, no options have opened up for the girls. Rehana works with an NGO that supports transgenders and helps create awareness about the community. She aspires to be known beyond her identity as a transgender person, but is now realising that acceptance by society is the biggest hurdle those of her ilk have to face, their education notwithstanding.
So much so that even a simple task like getting a PAN card made or having a bank account opened is a painful exercise. “I have applied for a PAN card so many times, but my application is always cancelled. In fact, even in SOL, while my gender in the admission form was entered as ‘Other’, my admit card identified me as a male,” cringed Rehana.
Contrary to hopes that education could win them a way out of their stereotyped lives, it has, in fact, become a deterrent to their aspirations. Ishana decided to study with the objective of sitting for the Indian Railways’ Senior Section Engineer exam. Then she had a change of heart. “I did not pursue it,” she said. “The thought that I would have to attend classes again amid unending insults was too intimidating.”
Courtesy- Times of India