Bangalore: Male, Female or Others - the last category is the revolutionary step taken by Bangalore University in ensuring that trans-gender students are not lost when asked to define their sex on the application form. (Comment here)
The move comes courtesy Suma, a 24-year-old transsexual, who decided it was time to get an MBA. "I was tired of sex work. But when I went to the college (a private one, not affiliated to Bangalore University), the principal asked me, "Under what category do we put you...you are neither a girl nor a boy...and because of one student, everything will get spoilt." She then approached the Bangalore University.
Suma underwent a sex-change operation a few years back. She says she was forced to do sex work, but dreams of the time when she will have an MBA degree and will be "as respected as others" in the society.
She presently works at Samara, an NGO that works for the rights of transgenders. Samara is also supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Anyone who harasses trans-sexual students will be dealt with strictly... we will treat it as a case of ragging and book a case; the respective principal will be held responsible," says Dr Prabhu Dev, Vice-Chancellor, Bangalore University.
"For those who go to school, there is so much discrimination. In co-education schools, boys and girls are made to sit separately. And the teachers ask us to sit alone," says Akkai Padmasthali, 27-year-old transsexual and a gender rights' activists.
Akkai Padamasthali says she faced a lot of discrimination in school because of which she could study only up to 10th standard in Kannada medium. Determined, she taught herself English and is today one of the most vocal and articulate gender rights activists in Bangalore.
Traditionally, transgender individuals have been outcasts, rejected by both their families and society. Education, and jobs, have remained off-limits, and they've inevitably had to resort to the sex trade. Now, some like Suma say they have the right to dream of - and get - more. Starting with a classroom that recognizes and accepts them for who they really are.