Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan, 32, is being increasingly written about in local and national media for her decision to be out as trans. Pradhan, born in a village under the G. Udayagiri block of Kandhamal district, Odisha, faced rebukes and taunts from her father and siblings as a gender-different child. Undeterred, she focused on her education, completing an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, and her post-graduation in public administration from Utkal University in 2005. She entered the Odisha Financial Service in 2010, and now serves as a Commercial Tax Officer (CTO) in Paradip Port Township.
She appeared in all examinations as her assigned gender. Following her social transition in 2010, she appears to have gained acceptance as a transperson in the workplace, even though she continues to face taunts in the marketplace.
“The very people who were addressing me as ‘sir’ are now addressing me as ‘madam’. I did not face unpleasant situation as my superior officer is very supportive” she said in a quote to Update Odisha.
Pradhan remains involved with the Bhubaneswar-based community group Sakha that she co-founded in 2009. Her aspirations include building a shelter home for transpeople and advocating for adoption rights for individuals in the trans community.
Speaking to media, Pradhan, who recently filed her gender-change affidavit before an executive magistrate, has credited the Supreme Court NALSA judgement of 2014 for her decision to change her gender officially and embrace a third gender identity.
The state of Odisha has seen much progress in recent years around visibility of LGBT issues, including advocacy with government stakeholders, media, and mental health providers, due to the efforts of community groups and other civil society organizations. Following a sensitization event in February 2015 on the NALSA judgement, several legal service providers came forward to help transgender individuals prepare gender change affidavits based on self-declaration. Over 70 transgender individuals have, since, opted for legal gender change, most as the third gender and a few as women.
The state government of Odisha, through its newly created Department of Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SSEPD), has announced plans to implement the five schemes for transgender people announced by the Central Government’s Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment. These include pre- and post- matric scholarships, livelihood and pension schemes, and financial assistance to parents of transgender/gender-nonconforming children as a motivation for retaining children within natal families. The Department has also constituted a community-inclusive 16-member advisory panel to take forward the work of forming state- and district- level transgender certification committees, More recently, the Odisha Human Rights Commission has directed the state government to include transgender people in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), with entitlements (five kg of food grains per month under the Public Distribution System)
One hopes that the publicity surrounding Pradhan’s gender helps the government realize that transgender people are not only a “them”, a marginalized group requiring access to schemes, entitlements and protection from discrimination. They may well be one of “us”. A gazetted officer in the state administrative service. Who is simply asking for full inclusion for all like her. And like us.
Note: This post does not intend to tow the “respectability politics” line of valorizing a particular occupation. We demand rights and dignity for all trans* and queer people, whether sex worker or employee in the organized workforce.