Kerala has been slowly gaining a reputation as one of India’s most Trans-friendly state. From instating the first transgender Football tournament to setting up the first transgender boarding school, they are streets ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to equal opportunities. They even set up a ₹20,000 award to encourage greater participation from the transgender community in the education sector.
The scholarship was just awarded to 25-year-old Shyama S, making her the first recipient of such a grant in India. Shyama comes from a lower-income background, her father passed away when she was in High School leaving her mother as the family’s sole provider. In school and later college she faced ridicule and had to dance and perform comedy to earn extra money. She has always had to struggle to pursue her dreams, but today she has a Masters in Education from the University of Kerala, and is now looking to obtain a Ph.D in the same subject from Jawaharlal Nehru University or the University of Hyderabad.
For so many transgender citizens, the biggest challenge hasn’t always been being able to pursue higher studies but the lack of job opportunities that follow. But Shyama need not worry because Kerala has provisions to address this problem and plans for a 2% reservation for transgenders in Government jobs. In November 2015, at the International Conference on Gender Equality in Kovalam they introduced a policy specifically protecting the interests of the transgender and intersex community.
Shyama’s story is not unique, people across the country are fighting a daily battle to live happy, fulfilling lives but are being held back by a small-minded group who don’t yet understand the transgender community. Despite her experiences she will continue to chase her dream and is hoping to become a teacher or research fellow in the future. She also believes that although Kerala’s Transgender Policy isn’t in effect as yet, the world is becoming a more tolerant place, as she says, “We see the signs of change only in the younger generation, they don’t discriminate against us.” We can only hope that one day this accepting attitude towards the transgender community is one that is shared across the nation.