“But whether a person is gay or transgender or straight, it doesn’t change the fact that they are trying to lead their own life. And One should help them in doing so”
Being a transgender or gay or straight is not in our control and we being educated individuals should try and understand the agony that one goes through when he/she is discriminated on the basis of sex. We are all born as individuals and our work and actions define our future, but did we ever read that our sex will determine our future? As an ode to the Pride month, we at Campusvibes bring you this special transgender engineer who is none other than Grace Banu, whose struggles and hurdles made her what she is today.
1. Who is Grace Banu? The making of Grace Banu?
I am a resident of the Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu. I am the first transgender engineer and a social-activist. Since childhood, I have faced a lot of discrimination based on caste and gender. My school timings were different from that of the rest of the children. I would come late and leave early. Students were told that they would be punished if they interacted with me. These things led to the built up that even pushed my buttons to commit suicide and give up on the idea of going to school.
2. What were the challenges and mental trauma you had to go through in your personal life?
It was my school headmaster who first came to know about me being a transgender. His words sent shivers down my spine when he broke the news to me. When I told my parents about it, they were shocked. They had put me into the asylum to “correct me”. They were not ready to accept the situation that had come up.
Unfortunately, I had to leave home and then the transgender association adopted me and funded my education as I was very keen on learning.
I completed my Diploma securing a 95%. Through the Campus Placement, I got the opportunity to work in a software company. During this time, I got my surgery done. I faced normal discrimination even then. Society did not accept me; however, my diploma friends were very supportive.
3. The discrimination at the school level and at the professional level would be very different. On one hand, it came from the children who failed to understand the sensitivity of the issue while on the other were the educated mass. Please tell us something about it.
Well, a lot of problems started with the school. I have been a victim of verbal abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse at different points of time. The society has also abused the gender non-conforming children. It is because of this reason that most of the trans people end up discontinuing their education.
As I mentioned earlier, that the school timings were different, there were terms and conditions imposed on me as well. This issue is faced by many such children. The most appalling discrimination in the schools revolves around the toilet. Forget the society even other children abuse the trans students. Hence, they are not allowed to use the school toilets as well. They use the toilets before leaving for school and then after returning home in the evening.
The flack I received in the school days was pretty much different from that I faced during work. Though I used to work for longer hours, there would be no equal pay for equal work. While on one hand, when women are pregnant, they get leaves without loss of pay but this case was not applicable for the trans people who opted for a surgery while they were on job.
Though my colleagues did not support me but my Managing Director was very supportive, hence being a silver lining to my dark cloud.
4. Did anybody stand by you during this tough phase?
During such a phase in life, you begin to see the true colors of the people. I was undergoing the most difficult phase of my life but no one helped me. I was completely on my own.
My only reliance were the books. I used to read a lot of them. Books of great leaders starting from Ambedkar, Karl Marx, Lenin, Periyar etc have been my pill of motivation. These books have been my only source of hope and my strongest support. These gave me the solutions which no one else could.
5. What are the different initiatives that you are or have been a part of?
Well, I fight for the trans rights, women’s rights and Dalits rights. I fight for reservation of the people of our community in education, employment and politics. Even I pay a tax. That is my right as well.
Way back in 2012, we had protested the demand, wherein the high court suggested for giving us reservation while the Tamil Nadu government has not given any solution yet. These fights are going on for 8 years.
On 21st October 2011, I organised my first protest. On 22nd October Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission exams were held and the trans people were not allowed to write the exams. I fought against the demand and filed a case as well. On the 23rd October, we protested at the TM secretariat. The police were also present there and in front of them we were treated very badly, my co-protestors were slapped and till date, I continue my protest.
In 2016, I organised a protest as the BJP government passed a bill for the protection of the transgenders. I opined for an amendment to the original bill. More than 8,000 transgenders organised a protest.
6. What are your expectations from the government in terms of regulations?
In terms of regulations, we expect reservation for the trans people and protection of our rights. Reservation is our right. This is the only solution for our community.
YOUR ROLE MODEL: AMBEDKAR, MOTHER TERESA
YOUR BIGGEST FEAR: Society and cockroaches
THE MOST ANNOYING HABIT YOU HAVE: Being short-tempered
YOUR MOTTO IN LIFE: “Education and employment is a right for people of our society and now the government has given this right. I have to make sure that none in the transgender community is deprived of this right”
LOVE FOR YOU IS: Essence of human character
So that was Grace Banu with Campusvibes!
With this, we believe that we the so-called- “straight ones” are the ones who don’t know the difference between fake and real. In fact, transgenders are the ones who are living out real and authentic lives, at least they are being themselves.And these lives should be CELEBRATED and NOT QUESTIONED
#StayTuned for more girls who in true sense are #WOMEN_OF_SUBSTANCE