Published: 24th June 2018
Are your breasts real: Horrifying questions that schools asked a Bengali trans-teacher that pushed her to revolt
With a decade of teaching experience, Suchitra likes to be around children. She says that children are nice if you give them love they will love you back, and not judge you like adults
Even after the Supreme court had declared in 2014 that those belonging to the transgender community would be allowed admission in educational institutions and they could also seek jobs under the category, the community continues to be humiliated and harassed to the same extent. Awareness and education are supposed to reform the situation but if even the educated people in the education sector are treating a qualified job-seeker like an object, then what is there to be done?
That's the exact question, Suchitra Dey (30), a transwoman school teacher from Kolkata is asking after she was faced with downright cruel questions from potential employers (Read schools). And it was not just one school which had such a narrow mindset, but several of them in the City of Joy. From forcing her to dress like a male to asking if she could bear a child, the humiliation led the transwoman to lash out and send a complaint to the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) and, subsequently, go viral.
A decade of pedagogy...and transformation
Suchitra has 10 years of teaching experience and holds a double MA in Geography and English. Her teaching career started a decade ago at a school in Kolkata when she was Hiranmay Dey, before having her gender reassigned and changing her name to Suchitra Dey. She underwent a Sex-Reassignment Surgery (SRS) in 2017 and became a transwoman. However, her real battle seems to have begun now in 2018. "People should know how we are treated, how a large community is being neglected and how no one knows about the way we are mistreated. I strongly feel we should have a reservation in the private sector for transgenders, with at least two posts reserved. Every transgender must be able to work in the mainstream," says Suchitra.
She had hoped her qualifications would suffice for her interviewers when she applied for teaching positions in schools in the city. However, they overlooked her capabilities and resorted to making vulgar comments about her decision to change her sex. “When I try to upgrade and get a better job, I am failing to do so. The employers are only harassing me, asking me to change my credentials (as a man), wear a male outfit. I changed my gender in 2017, and now I am a female so why would I portray myself as a male when I am clearly comfortable with my body and the transition?" asks Suchitra.
Beloved teacher: Suchitra likes to be around children and they don't judge her
I'm not a man anymore, despite what my certificates say
Perhaps the most horrifying incident was the one where paperwork was cited as the reason for the school wanting her to 'man' up.
One of the interviewers at a well-known Kolkata school asked me to wear male outfits because all my mark sheets and certificates say that I am a man. In each of these interviews, I faced the worst kind of humiliation possible
Suchitra Dey, school teacher
She adds, "The male principal of one of these schools also asked me whether I can bear a child. He also asked me if my breasts are real. Would these questions be asked if I wasn’t a transgender woman?" Suchitra asks, the emotion in her voice apparent. "How would a normal woman feel if they are judged only their capacity to reproduce or breastfeed? Take Mother Teresa for example, her womanhood or femininity was never questioned even when she didn't reproduce. Despite that she was put on a high pedestal and worshipped," says Suchitra.
What about the rest of the transgender community?
Luckily for her, her current workplace is a safe zone. She has been working at a private school in Kolkata where she started her career. "Everyone there has always been extremely cooperative. the management was happy to let me rejoin after the surgery and I finally started leading my life as a woman. I currently teach students from classes V to X." She adds that the authorities are more sensitive and they have been comfortable with her transition but she is still apprehensive about the future and where this mindset might lead our society. "I couldn’t handle the humiliation anymore. The things I have been asked by authorities at ‘reputed’ schools in Kolkata shows the kind of mindset people still hold about our community. If someone like me, who is educated and experienced, has to face this then imagine the plight of those who don’t have the opportunity to go to school, or the ones who have been repeatedly ostracised," she laments.
She has written a complaint to the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) citing the mistreatment, which she submitted on June 11, seeking their intervention in the matter.
We hope justice is served and the people of this community do not have to face such nightmares in the near future.