It was a proud moment for Madhya Pradesh when three transgender students were enrolled in colleges last year but the bubble burst soon after. They were actually girls who had mistakenly ticked the “third gender” column on their admission forms.
The irony didn’t end there as these girls are still referred to as “third gender” candidates on official records of the higher education department. The correction is awaited.
The department introduced the category in registration forms in 2015, almost a year after the Supreme Court recognised transgender people as the “third gender” and eligible for admission to educational institutions under this category.
“Eight students took admission in the category. Later, five of them withdrew and rectified their mistake. But those who couldn’t rectify still belong to the third gender category as far as our records are concerned,” a higher education official said.
These students were called pioneers by gender equality campaigners for taking a bold step despite the social stigma attached to identifying themselves as “third gender”.
Not many students ticked the right column because of the constraints.
“Students from this category don’t want to disclose their identities in educational institutions because students from other categories treated us indifferently. Even, the attitude of teachers changed towards us. I studied but I never told anyone that what I am,” an arts student said.
The mindset is best gauged from remarks of a teacher of a college where one of the “fake” transgender students took admission. “Thank god we came to know that she is not from the third gender. Otherwise, all the teachers were looking at her suspiciously.”
This is from the state that has elected eunuch Kamla Bua as mayor for Katni and Shabnam Mausi, the first transgender MLA in the country.
“People from the third gender category don’t want a specific column but want respect and dignified life. Nothing is going to happen with a separate column. There is a need to change the people’s mindset,” said Somya T Gupta of Humsafar Trust, an NGO.