In another win for the LGBTQi community, Tamil Nadu’s Sathyasri Sharmila broke the glass ceiling by becoming India’s first transgender lawyer after enrolling herself with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (BCTNP).
For a long time, the transgender community has been socially, professionally and sadly, physically, ostracised from the mainstream and despite the centre and various state governments issuing laws and schemes to help break the stigmas and discrimination associated with them, the public mentality and attitude still falls short of accepting the community as one of our own.
The 36-year-old from Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district did not have an easy life and had to walk out of her home at the age of 18 after being subject to torture and abuse by neighbours.
Born as Udhayakumar, she had initially completed her B.Com (Company Secretaryship) from Paramakudi, but her desire of doing something for the marginalised community began cementing for Sharmila to consider a change of profession.
In 2004, she joined the Bachelors of Law course in Salem Government College and completed the course. However, hurdles came in the form of accommodation during this period as she had enrolled as a man but identified as a woman, which made it hard for her to stay in either of the college hostels.
It took her almost over a decade to finally muster up courage and confidence and enrol with the State Bar Council, but when the judges called out her name as the first transgender lawyer in the State, every obstacle along her journey seemed worthwhile.
As reported by Live Law, Justice P N Prakash of the Madras High Court, who has administered oaths to more than 600 students, mentioned that throughout his professional life, he’d yearned to see a transgender as a judge of a High Court, and with Sharmila’s enrolment, this too shall come true.
An elated Sharmila told Hindustan Times, “I was still not confident about the treatment meted out to the transgender community in the society. But I believe things are gradually changing for us. We are beginning to be recognised after the Supreme Court registered us as third genders in 2014. Therefore, I thought the time has come to register myself as a lawyer. Serving the community is my priority now.”
With Sharmila’s foray into a mainstream profession like law, not only does it give hope for the entire transgender community but also that our society is headed for better inclusivity that has been long overdue.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)