“Its all about identity. I could have easily got enrolled as a boy to pursue my higher education and research. But, I wanted to be enrolled as a transgender. It has not been an easy journey. I had to make a column box in the section where gender has to be mentioned in the application form for a post graduation course, beside male and female, by myself. Now, there is an option.”
Meet Deepa Buddhe, the first transgender to complete a post-graduation course in the state after getting enrolled as a transgender. She shared her journey with IANS, first as a boy, later on as a girl and finally as a transgender. “Many joined the community after completion of studies. I wanted to complete studies as a transgender, because that is my identity. Today, my family as well as society treats me with respect,” she says.
Deepa was born as Guruswamy H.G. Explaining the transformation and dilemma Deepa says, “By the time I reached the 7th and 8th standard, I knew that I was a woman. However, I didn’t share my thoughts with anyone. It was not possible to share as I thought it would become a problem. So, I continued my education till graduation. I enrolled as a male in PUC and completed the graduation. By the time I came to PUC I had started to be with my community. During my graduation days, I was more with the community members.”
In 2015, Deepa got her degree and came to know that she was a transgender. Though, she tried to pursue her studies as a transgender, the colleges refused to admit her. She then started working in a project at Samatha Society.
However, Deepa did not give up hope. She continued reading and studied books on Dr B.R. Ambedkar and Buddha. In 2018, she inquired for admission for a PG course in Dr B.R. Ambedkar Research and Extension Center. She wanted to enrol as a transgender. “I did not want to enrol as a male. The authorities said they would give me an opportunity. Dr N Narendrakumar, the Director and Prof J. Somashekar helped me to fulfil my dream,” she says.
The application form contained only options for male and female in the gender column. “The thing was, I am not a male. And there was no proof that I am a woman. I was a transgender. I wrote a separate column alongside male and female manually and made an entry as a transgender,” Deepa says.
Now, Mysuru University has added a separate column for the transgender community alongside male and female. Deepa completed her MA in 2020. She became eligible for a Ph.D after writing the entrance examination. In April, she enrolled under guide Prof. J Somashekar for research. Right now Deepa is pursuing research on the topic of, “The analytical study of sexual minorities in the districts of Mysuru and Chamarajanagar.”
Deepa is getting a scholarship. She is happy that congratulatory messages are pouring in as she is the first person to pursue a post-graduation course and research after enrolling as a transgender. “Many of my community members have completed it, but they had enrolled either as a man or a woman.”
“I pleaded for admission for Kannada MA in 2015, there was a gender issue. I could not get an opportunity as I was determined to take up the course as a transgender. I don’t want to pursue education as a male or a female. I fought and succeeded in getting admission in 2018,” she says.
According to Deepa many transgender persons don’t go for regular classes and prefer correspondence courses. Deepa didn’t choose the correspondence course route as she wanted to experience the physical classes. Very few of her classmates spoke to her but she says the lecturers treated her at par with other students.
The majority of students in the class were boys and she was the only transgender. Boys from other departments, in the university campus and in the library teased her but she says it was much better than her past experiences.
Talking about the present Deepa says, “now, the community speaks to me with respect, I am seen as a social worker who fights for the rights of the transgender community. The community members should get their constitutional rights, they have to live with dignity and they have to get higher posts.”
Talking about her bond with her family, Deepa explains that she was the only boy among five children and the family poured all their love on her. “I cannot forget the love of my mother. The family kept me away for 3 to 4 years and now I am in touch with them. My mother speaks to me and she always advises me to follow the righteous path. The family is in touch over the phone.”
Chandini, a poetess and founder of the community owned management organisation Payana, stated that she is like her daughter. “She is our model who showed for the first time that our community members can study and complete studies by enrolling as a transgender. We belong to neighbouring cities. I have told her that we can show it to the world which discriminates, pushes us away that we can also complete our education and obtain important positions. I am proud about Deepa as she is the first to show the path in the state.”
Prof J. Somashekar, her guide in Dr B.R. Ambedkar Research and Extension Center, explained that with her knowledge, commitment and activism Deepa Buddhe is going to be an immense asset for the society. “We respect the liberty of individuals. We don’t judge on the basis of gender, caste and creed. When a transgender approached us for higher education, as a teacher and as a student what is needed for the dissemination of knowledge, we followed that obligation. It is a right that she has,” he said.