26-year-old Janaki, who was born as Penugonda Siva, was aware of her gender identity since childhood but was always forced to suppress her instincts and act like a boy. Coming from a humble background, she didn’t have a choice.
“I knew my hidden hijra instincts from childhood. However, my family never allowed me to express myself,” says Janaki speaking to the Mumbai Mirror.
Janaki moved on to complete an undergraduate degree in computer science from a college in Proddatur in 2012. She had even decided to pursue a bachelors degree in education (B.Ed.) but the societal pressure of conforming to a gender she was assigned but did not identify with, became too much to bear. So, she decided to run away from home.
She escaped and joined a transgender group at Kadapa, a city in the Rayalaseema region of the south-central part of Andhra Pradesh. There, she lived alongside other members of the hijra community who had been ostracised by their families and society.
Later, when Janaki tried to reconnect with her family, she realised that none of them, except for her mother, were interested. Her mother continues to meet her at an isolated spot to avoid the threat of being identified in a public place.
“One cannot forget the family and its affection. But, when the family sees us as a stigma, we as their well-wishers have to leave them to their freedom,” she says.
For over five years, Janaki lived off alms and begging, but little did she know that her life would take a major turn. Today, while she continues to live in a temple in Chennuru, which is a village in Kadapa district, Janaki is a proud government employee.
When the transgender community in the village was called by the district collector to enrol for Aadhar and voter ID cards, Janaki struck up a conversation with him and spoke about her educational qualifications. Impressed, he asked Janaki to apply for a post, and she successfully qualified for the job.
Despite being homeless herself, Janaki now works for a government project that is helping hundreds of families acquire their own homes.
Deemed the first transgender beneficiary of a policy announced by Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu, the 26-year-old has been offered the job of a data entry operator in the state housing corporation.
Posted at the office of the Assistant Engineer (AE), Housing Corporation in Chennuru, she will soon be earning a fixed salary of Rs 15,000 per month.
Janaki is responsible for segregating applications from over ten villages that fall under the jurisdiction of the housing corporation.
“Once Gopalakrishna sir (he is the Assistant Engineer) gives his nod, I feed in the details of the eligible applicants into the system. I also tackle the correspondence on behalf of our office. I am enjoying my work and am grateful for the support provided by Gopalakrishna sir,” Janaki says.
K Rajasekhar, the Director of AP Housing Corporation, has also praised Janaki’s work.
She hopes to rent out a room with her first salary, send some money to her parents and celebrate with her friends. Her long-term goal is to complete a masters degree in computer science and become a teacher.
Hopefully, Janaki’s story will inspire and encourage the transgender community to avail the benefits of a recent policy by the AP government, that not only offers pensions, ration, and loans to transgender people but also encourages them to take up jobs in the government and public sector if they are qualified for it.
Feature image in-set credit: Mumbai Mirror