In a major step towards the addition of the transgender community into mainstream society, Sathyasri Sharmila scripted history by becoming India’s first transgender lawyer. This indeed goes to show that our country is gradually changing.
Hailing from Tamil Nadu, Sharmila’s journey was so terrible and difficult to explain. She was subject to immense torture and abuse because of her gender.
“I enrolled my name in the Bar Council Of Tamil Nadu And Puducherry and became the first transgender lawyer in India. I have struggled a lot in my life,” she told ANI.
“I wouldn’t have had to wait so many years if I had followed the gender binary columns in the form and enrolled under the female category. But I was determined to enroll only as a trans woman lawyer. Since I am a resident of Tamil Nadu, I went to the state Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to register.
They were shocked to hear that I wanted to enroll 11 years after graduating. However, they were very supportive. They told me that no other lawyer had ever approached them to include a category for transgender people and that I was the first. I am really happy that I have opened the doors for trans women and trans men lawyers to be known for who they are,” said the 36-year-old Sharmilla, currently working under the guidance of a high court judge.
“I am happy to see that I have inspired some members of the community to study law. I am hoping that I will be able to articulate their voices on a larger platform and change mindsets about our community,” she said.
“I faced problems since the time I and everyone around me became conscious that I was different. My family was harassed because I did not conform to the norms traditionally associated with the sex assigned to me at birth. Biologically born a male, I realized I wanted to be a woman when I was 12 years old. After learning more about the trans community, it became clear that, except for begging and sex work, most trans persons were not gainfully employed in any other professions. Then I knew that education would be my biggest weapon to tackle discrimination,” Sharmilla says.
After having completed her schooling in childhood, she then left home to do higher studies because she thought her family shouldn’t face diffculties because of her.
After graduating as a lawyer in the year 2007 from Salem Government College in Tamil Nadu, Sharmilla started working for the community. Over the next 10 years, she travelled across India to use her skills as a lawyer to educate the community about its rights.
“Having become the first person to get a passport under the third gender category, I know the process and documents required. I faced many obstacles despite being educated. But I don’t want the community to go through the same problems especially as majority of them are uneducated,” Sharmilla says.
The 36-year-old Sharmila dreams about a society where people from her community can ply trade at higher positions across India.