India is set to get its first transgender college principal.
Manabi Bandopadhyay – a transgender from West Bengal – will make history when she takes charge of Krishnagar Women's College in Nadia district on June 9.
"For me, it’s a long battle against ignorance. There was a time when I and even my father were threatened with (dire) consequences as I am a transgender. I spent my childhood in Nadia and it’s a comeback to my home with pride and dignity after a long battle," Bandopadhyay told Hindustan Times.
This is not the first time Bandopadhyay, currently an associate professor in Bengali at the Vivekananda Satobarshiki Mahavidyalaya, has created history for the transgender community.
In 1995, she published the country’s first transgender magazine, Ob-Manab (sub-human). The magazine, despite a very low circulation, continues to be published.
"I was the first transgender professor in West Bengal and the first transgender to complete a PhD. Despite getting my due honour, I have always faced threats and insults," said Bandopadhyay, who completed her PhD on transgenders in 2005.
She did her MA in Bengali and joined the Vivekananda Centenary College in Jhargram sub-division as a lecturer in the late 1990s. But she faced challenges from her colleagues in her very first assignment.
"My dad and I were threatened by the colleagues and leaders of the students union. Their demand was that I should register as a male lecturer. When I protested, they tried to kill me and my father and even made sure that we didn’t get a room on rent in Jhargram," she recalled.
Since she faced similar demands everywhere she went, she decided to undergo a sex change operation.
"I underwent a series of operations in 2003 and 2004 and became a full-fledged woman. In 2004, I became Manabi (which means beautiful woman in Bengali) from Somnath (her given name). It was a wonderful experience," said Bandhopadhyay, who was one of the first few transgenders in West Bengal to undergo a sex change operation.
On Tuesday morning, she visited the Krishnagar Women's College, sporting Ray-Ban sunglasses and a bright yellow sari, her curly hair done up in a coiffure. She was accompanied by her adopted son Debasish Manabiputro and transgender friend Jyoti Samanta.
"It is not the post that I sought after. It’s the achievement and honour that's most important," she said.
In a landmark ruling in April last year, the Supreme Court recognised transgender people as a third gender.
"It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," the court said while granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.
The court directed the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities.
India is estimated to have about two million transgender people.