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Shanthi, a transgender rights activist reminds us that transgendered people do not need our pity – only our recognition that they deserve the same opportunities as everybody else.
Every time I come across a transgendered person’s story, I am struck by the incredible hardships they face in life. Though a member of society like any other, they are meted out harsh, differential treatment.
When we talk to change-makers within the trans community, every one of them reveal how difficult the journey has been for them. Being born in a way that is different from what is seen as ‘normal’ is not something that you take up as a choice. It is their reality and they too want to live freely, work, earn and succeed, like any other citizen of this country.
Much of it is got to do with the ideas we grow up with. As children, we are taught to see people from the transgender community as ‘dangerous’ or ‘lazy’. We don’t realise that these stereotypes arise because most of us have very limited exposure to transgendered people, and moreover, that the only reason they are forced into professions such as begging or sex work is because society denies them other opportunities.
Among the well-known people in the transgender community who articulate for the rights of trans people, is Shanthi. Shanthi is a Radio Jockey at Radio Active as well as an artist with The Aravani Art Project. She is also a documentarian and is currently writing an autobiographic illustration of her journey of fighting for womanhood.
Optimistic about life, Shanthi believes that the world is changing and that the workplace is opening up for trans people too. As part of a recent panel discussion with Accenture to celebrate Pride Month, Shanthi spoke about the concept of Equality and what it meant to her.
Hearing a small part of her story was sufficient to ignite my curiosity to know more about this incredible woman. Born to a conservative household where there were clear boundaries on what boys and girls were supposed to do based on their gender, Shanthi was conflicted about her identity for 19 long years! It is only when her family started looking for a marriage alliance for her that she came out, asking them for their support.
Shanthi started doing odd jobs and got involved with the NGO Sangama. It is here that she met her mentors Dr. Akkai Padmashali, and Pinky Chandran from Radio Active who made her realise her true potential and a new Shanthi was born! Through the medium of her shows, she talks about the lives of many transgendered people working as sex workers and aims at spreading awareness about their rights.
The transgender community has always faced discrimination from society at large. Is the workplace any different?
Well, she says, “I want to be treated the same and equal as any other person in the workplace. Don’t look at my appearance and judge my strengths and weaknesses. The talent is more important. I want to see more doors of opportunities opening up for trans men and women.”
As an organisation, Accenture believes that equality breeds innovation. If everyone in the organisation irrespective of their gender or identity is on an even keel, the workplace is bound to be conducive to innovation and foster higher productivity. Resonating with these thoughts, Shanthi says that if people at the workplace lend a helping hand to help pull others up, the entire community moves forward together.
Getting To Equal is an aspiration of many from the community and hearing their perspectives to broaden our own is the only way we will embrace the change with open arms and create an inclusive society.
Hats off to Shanthi for her courage and resilience and also for leading by example!
Watch Shanthi and other change makers come together at Accenture to share their stories.
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Ruchi Verma Rajan is a woman on a mission of self-discovery.
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