Parvathy T S is India’s first trans postwoman. She narrates her journey of accepting her own identity, and how she rose above harassment and rejection to create a place for herself.
In the post office of Rosemala, a village in Kerala’s Kollam district, sits 36-year-old Parvathy T S. Rosemala is known for the way it unfolds like a blooming rose. For Parvathy, it is akin to the way her own life has unfolded, and how she has blossomed into her own.
Though born and brought up as Kumareshan T S, today all her official documents show the name Parvathy. She is India’s first trans postwoman.
“I knew that I had a female identity from a very young age. I’d never miss a chance to dress up like a girl during fancy dress competitions or dance events,” she recalls.
While Parvathy enjoyed dressing up as a woman, tying her hair with colourful bands and wearing kajal, she was mocked by her peers and teachers, she says. “Almost everyone made fun of me. This continued even through my college days. This made me run away from my hometown.”
Parvathy says that even though she identified as a woman, she didn’t have the courage to let the world know. It was when she began living in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu as a trans woman that she found her confidence. “I pierced my nose and ears. For me, this was a big step in owning my identity as a woman.”
The ‘second phase’ of life
Parvathy belongs to the Malavedar tribal community of Girivarga colony, Urukunnu. Her identity was too much to handle for her family, who are already discriminated against on the basis of their caste, she says. When she returned to her hometown, they welcomed her – not as Parvathy, but as their son Kumareshan.
Parvathy says she was unbothered by this, and instead dedicated her time to searching for ways to make a living. Along with preparing for central and state-level job tests, she worked in a petrol pump for daily wages.
“I continued to dress up as a woman despite the comments and harassment. It was during this period that I fell in love with a man who accepted me as I am. Even though the relationship didn’t last long, it helped me to love and prioritise myself, no matter what. I studied hard to reach my goal of earning a government job and in 2012, I succeeded,” she says.
Because all her official documents identified her as male, Parvathy was posted as a ‘postman’ of Rosemala. “But the name changed after a few months. Regardless, it was hard to get the order signed by the postal department, which identifies me as transgender,” she notes.
Despite warnings and harassment from her seniors to dress as a man, Parvathy continued wearing her favourite salwars and sarees. Every day, she travels 34 km in her black Honda Activa to reach the post office from her village. She collects mail from the Rajakappu area to Rosemala and back by travelling around 12 km a day.
“During my initial days, I noticed people staring at me. But compared to the time I left Kerala, more people, especially the youth, respect our community. I am also an LGBTQIA+ activist who fights for basic rights like getting our gender registered in official documents like election IDs and more job opportunities in the public as well as the private sector.”
‘Her fight is a revolution’
In 2018, Parvathy became the first trans person from the Kollam district to cast a vote in parliamentary elections. “Till then, I’d cast my vote as a male. People today addressing me as a trans woman gives me immense happiness and validation,” she says.
On 9 November 2022, Parvathy received an order from the postal department confirming her as transgender.
Davis K, director of Postal Service, Kerala Circle, says, “I hope this is the beginning of a great change and makes the trans community feel empowered as well as included. Parvathy’s fight for her identity is a revolution, and I hope everyone understands that the world is theirs too. Kerala circle is extremely happy that Parvathy was officially named as the first trans postwoman of the country.”
Parvathy, however, says that her fight still has a long way to go. “I was successful in my battle because I was privileged with financial stability and family support. This is not the case for the majority of trans people around us. Recognition doesn’t mean that I am the first trans woman in the country to have this job. No others had the courage to come out due to social stigma or the orders that are still under process.”
She continues, “There are more than 400 trans people in my district alone. But not many have official documents that note them as one. The right to identity is part of our basic freedom and it is sad that we need to fight hard to achieve it. I hope it gets better in the coming years, I hope society will stop bullying the queer community and start accepting them as they are.”
Edited by Divya Sethu; Photo credits: Facebook/Parvathy T S