Earlier this month, the University of Delhi’s Transgender Resource Centre (TRC) conducted a series of open sessions to encourage members of the transgender community to take admission in the varsity’s regular courses. While it seems like a heartening development, the fact is that year after year, despite the continuing efforts of the TRC, the number of transgender students wishing to enrol in regular DU courses, has remained dismally low. This year, only one transgender student applied for admission in a regular course in DU.
At the same time, 90 per cent of the queries that the centre has received till now are for admission in the School of Open Learning (SOL) and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), hinting at the transgender candidates’ hesitation to join regular courses.
DU had included the option of ‘third gender’ in their post-graduation application forms in 2014, and the option was included in the undergraduate application forms the very next year. That year, as many as 66 transgender candidates applied for admission. But five years down the line, the initiative has not met with the success expected.
DU’s Transgender Resource Centre recently conducted open sessions to encourage transgender students to take admission in regular courses
‘Not easy to end discrimination’
Rehana, a transgender student pursuing BA (Programme) from SOL, says she was never treated like an equal in her school and she did not want to experience the discrimination in college again. “It is not that the students in SOL respect us, but we have the option to not attend classes. Even when someone tries to take admission under the third-gender category in a regular college, the administration does not accept school documents, wherein parents had written the child’s sex as ‘male’ or ‘female’. Then, there are problems related to washrooms and other day-to-day discrimination,” says Rehana.
Rima, another transgender student who has completed BCom (H) from SOL and finished schooling from a government school in Delhi, echoes Rehana’s sentiment. “ Humare bolne se leke, humare chalne tak, har baat pe comment karte hain log. I have faced that throughout my school life. Things may have changed on paper for us, but there is still a long way to go before other people accept us,” shares Rima.
Sirat, a SOL drop-out, says it’s not just the transgender students’ responsibility to make things better. Other students and administration in regular colleges also need to come forward. “The members of the community hesitate to come out of their comfort zones. It has to be a two-way process. College administrations should take measures to make them feel invited,” says Sirat.
“It is not that the students in School of Open Learning respect us, but we have the option to not attend classes,” say transgender candidates
‘Candidates need to step up’
Putting the onus on transgender candidates, several principals say they have been making efforts with the help of gender forums to sensitise students about the community, but the situation will improve only when transgender students come forward to take admission.
“The aspirants from the community are still not sure about taking admission and facing teachers and students in regular colleges. Nobody will deny them admission, since the university acknowledges the third gender, but giving them space in admission forms is not enough,” says Professor Rajesh, head of the Department of Adult, Continuing Education and Extension.
Some colleges even made their infrastructure trans-friendly but there are no takers. Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences (BCAS) has a separate washroom for transgender students since 2016, but the college is yet to get a transgender student. “We would be happy to take transgender students. The idea for this washroom came to me a few years ago, when I was travelling and saw a transgender air-hostess. I thought if they can reach such heights, why don’t we also do something to make our college infrastructure more inclusive?” says Balaram Pani, BCAS principal.
Madhu Pruthi, principal of Keshav Mahavidyalaya, adds, “People are open to members from the transgender community. We stand by our Constitution and laws that protect them, and welcome them all to our college. They shouldn’t have any fears or apprehensions as they shall be treated like any other student.”