Published: 17th September 2019
Maharaja's College now has a transgender in the Students' Union: This is Daya Gayathri's story
Daya is a 24-year-old BA Malayalam Literature student. She is a nominated member in the college's SFI-led union
There are quite a number of things that set Maharaja's College, Ernakulam apart. Apart from its boastful history and a number of notable alumni, the college has the most number of transgender students in Kerala. In that scenario, it isn't too surprising to know that the institution has a gender-neutral toilet. Now, in a first, the college's Students' Union has a transgender representative, a 24-year-old BA Malayalam Literature student Daya Gayathri.
Daya is a nominated member in the current SFI-led union. "The college has eight transgender students. However, our representation wasn't much in youth festivals. Also, no awareness class was conducted there until now. So, there was a demand to have a transgender representative and the SFI thought that it is better that a transgender person handles it," she says.
Daya's school and college days are in stark contrast with each other. The vibrant young woman dressed in a green blouse and a black skirt tells us how she was dressed in man clothes that suffocated her, not too long ago. "I used to be extremely effeminate as a kid. It wasn't much of an issue initially, but as I grew up, things started getting complicated. I was taunted throughout and as a result, I confined myself inside my house," she says. "I wrote a lot of poems and read books. My friends were all girls. No one, not even my father missed a chance to taunt me. I was conditioned to believe that I do not deserve to be born and should die," she recalls.
She recalls an instance of reading about a man who wanted to be identified as a woman back then. "I never knew this was possible but I somehow wanted to be that person," she says. "Every night I'd cry to sleep because of the daily humiliation and harassment. My mother sort of knew that I was effeminate. I wasn't discreet. However, she was in no position to support me," she adds.
"I was never a man," she says. "But I was told that the feminity in me was bad." A major turning point in her life was in 2012 when she'd joined college. She tells us how she was forced to drop out of college after being harassed by a group of men. "I dropped out of college and started working in the jasmine fields and in the firework factory. But the next year, I travelled on my own to come to Kochi to join Maharaja's College. I never knew that I could do it all by myself," she says.
Moving to Kochi was a gamechanger. Apart from the major culture shock, she also faced an identity crisis about her sexuality for the first time. "In the second year of college, I got into a relationship with a man. I thought I was gay. In fact, I never knew that transgender people even existed!" she exclaims.
As times and perspectives changed, she had novel dreams. She wanted to get the sex reassignment surgery done, dress up as a woman and wear bangles. She broke up with her then-boyfriend. "I was slowly embracing my identity. Also, I came out to my family. It was quite difficult for them to accept me. So, I burned all my mens clothes and moved out of my house," she says.
Things are quite different today. Her family now accepts her as a woman. She was also adopted by artist Renju Renjimar. She is also all set to tie the knot with her live-in partner Siddharth, who is a transman. "There are difficulties financially. Even today, I find it difficult to attend classes regularly, as that would keep me away from work. I somehow have to earn my daily bread," she says.