Published: 20th June 2019
Meet Avanthika, one of the two transgender students who is shaking things up at CMS College Kottayam
Under the Kerala government's new transgender reservation policy, Avanthika and Shana Navas got enrolled in CMS College
Like any other true-blue native of Kottayam, Avanthika too was eager to study in CMS College. But unfortunately, for this 23-year-old, things did not pan out as she'd planned. She knew that she was different. Problem was, her family didn't seem to understand this. It was around the time that she finished class XII that she finally came out to her family as a transwoman. Disowned by them, just as she turned 18, she had to leave Kottayam.
After leaving home in 2013, Avanthika headed to Bengaluru, where she lived with the transgender community for a few years. Even though things were fine initially, she remembers how after a while it became difficult to survive without a regular job. "That was when I decided to study further. It had become my life's mission to earn a dignified job. That will be a step closer to societal acceptance," she says. So, two years back, she came back to Kerala.
That burning desire to study in a college never disappeared.
Five years down the line, her dream has come true. Today, she is a first year BA History student at CMS College and she is one of the two transgender students to join the college this year. "I'm extremely happy. I always wanted to study in this college. It is a completely different atmosphere here," says an excited Avanthika.
Avanthika and another transgender student, Shana Navas, got admission under the transgender quota introduced by the Kerala Government in 2018. Under this, all state and affiliated universities have to reserve two seats for transgender students in undergraduate and postgraduate courses. "CMS is the only college to which I applied. I directly approached the college principal Dr Roy Sam Daniel and expressed my desire to study here," says Avanthika. "He then asked me to present all the necessary documents. Upon presenting them, I got the admission and started attending classes from the next day," she adds. Avanthika and Shana receive financial assistance from the Kerala government. Even though it isn't a lot of money, she is happy that the government doesn't ignore them.
Upon graduating, Avanthika is aiming to have a career in the Civil Services. For this, she plans to start attending coaching classes soon. What triggered an interest in services, we wondered? To this, she says, "More people like us must come in power. Only then a change will arise in our society. Even today, we are typecast as sex workers and beggars. This has to change," she says. At the same time, she is unhappy about the fact that not many in the transgender community are educated. "I'm trying my best to change it. I keep on talking about the importance of education to people. But in the end, it is a personal choice," she says.
After a week in college, Avanthika is happy to have made a few friends. She isn't surprised by the fact that she is discriminated by most people. But she has no complaints. "We obviously cannot expect everyone to support us. At the same time, you can't blame everyone. Many students here do not have much exposure," she says.
A few months ago, this student was in the news for going to Sabarimala following the 2018 Supreme Court verdict. She tells us that her journey to the shrine was pretty much hassle-free. "After the verdict was out, people were only discussing men and women. No one spoke of the other gender. So, we wanted to know how people would respond when someone like me entered the shrine," she says. "This was also an attempt to reinforce gender equality," she adds.