Sometimes surviving in a society that celebrates heteronormativity is a big challenge, in itself. Every day we hear stories about violence, ostracization, and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community being perpetrated in our country. It comes as no surprise that many people from that community take their own lives, after having endured such blatant abuse and societal neglect. Even on such a grim note, we can say that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel — a rainbow on a rainy day.
Indian society’s understanding of gender is improving with each passing day, making them more accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community. A gender-sensitized society also creates a safe space for more people to come out and be comfortable performing their real gender identity. India reached two milestones in recent history when Joyita Mondal, from West Bengal, became India's first transgender judge, and in Kerala, a new era of inclusivity was ushered in when Ziya Paval and Zahad, from Kerala, became India’s first transgender parents.
In the wake of such positivity, another wonderful news has ushered in from India’s trans community. Padma Lakshmi becomes Kerala’s first transgender lawyer. The pursuit of law has always been viewed as a noble profession by mainstream society. Inclusion, not for the sake of representation but solely based on merit, of a transgender woman in the law community is indeed a progressive sign. There have been others before her from other parts of India, with Tamil Nadu’s Satyashri Sharmila, being India’s first appointed transgender advocate in 2018.
Padma Laxmi is a physics graduate and was an insurance agent, while simultaneously studying law. She worked as a LIC agent to fund her own education as voluminous legal textbooks can be very expensive. She graduated from the Ernakulam Government Law College and last Sunday, she was one of the more than 1,500 recent law graduates who received their bar enrolment certificates at an event hosted by the Bar Council of India. While she was studying law, she was undergoing hormone therapy, which is a painful process. However, that did not stop her from securing first class in her honors — an inspirational achievement that goes on to show that any obstacle can be overcome if the will is strong.
"I ignore all forms of negativity, be it people or their comments. I focus on the positive. I believe that is one of my advantages. If I focus on the negativity, I will have time only for that and will never move forward in life."
Padma Lakshmi, in an interview with PTI
Padma Laxmi gradually stopped working as an insurance agent after joining as a trainee with senior advocate, K V Bhadrakumari. Since last November, Lakshmi was interning with advocate Bhadrakumari. She said that her senior created a space for her among the stalwarts of the legal profession in the Kerala High Court. She credits her senior with teaching her how the Constitution is always a lawyer’s biggest weapon. As a practicing new advocate, she wants to champion the causes of the poor and marginalized. Lakshmi also credited her family, who was loving and supportive throughout her entire journey. Her mother is an advocate’s clerk and her father used to work at the Cochin Shipyard Ltd.
"My family has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams with courage. So why should I fear anything?"
Kerala's Law Minister P Rajeev and Higher Education Minister R Bindu also congratulated Lakshmi on social media for her remarkable achievement.
“Congratulations to Padma Lakshmi who overcame all the difficulties in her life and enrolled as the first transgender lawyer in Kerala. May advocate Padma Lakshmi’s life inspire more people from the transgender community to enter the legal profession."
P Rajeev, in a Facebook post
"It is a matter of immense pride that Padma Lakshmi’s name will now be etched into the history of Kerala, as the state’s first transgender lawyer. No doubt she has faced obstacles galore in this journey. But she persevered, never letting any naysayer deter or weigh her down. Padma Lakshmi’s success would inspire many more trans persons in the state to enter the legal profession."
R Bindu, on Twitter
Padma Laxmi’s story is an inspirational one. She is a symbol of how love, acceptance, support, determination, and grit can help us overcome any hurdles life throws our way, irrespective of our gender. A tolerant society will produce more Adam Harrys (India’s first transgender pilot), K. Prithika Yashinis (India’s first transgender inspector), Joyita Mondals, and Padma Lakshmis.