Cycling across Telangana, this trans woman is teaching kids about equality, humanism

Gayatri has covered three Telangana districts so far, reaching out to government school children, and plans to tour all 31.
Gayatri on her bicycle
Gayatri on her bicycle

On a sunny noon in December, 23-year-old Gayatri Bhagat Singh was cycling in Armoor town of Nizamabad. Though wary of the prejudices she will be facing for her identity, Gayatri, a trans woman, has been on a cycling tour across the state of Telangana. Her mission: impart values of humanism and educate government school children about democracy – which, she believes, is absolutely essential in the present communal climate. 

Gayatri is a native of Domakonda in Kamareddy district. Disowned by her biological family for her gender identity a few years ago. Though Gayatri has completed a technical course in an industrial training Institute, she has been unemployed since 2017 due to social prejudice and because employers are hesitant to hire a transgender person. “The pandemic further affected my employment prospects, and that is when I thought that I could probably do something that will make me happy. I came up with the idea of a cycle yatra,” she tells TNM in a telephonic interview on Thursday, December 23.

Gayatri, who is a former member of the Students’ Federation of India, began her yatra on December 4 from Hyderabad. As part of her tour, she covered more than 400 kilometres, traveling the districts of Kamareddy, Nizamabad, and Medak and reaching over 400 children.

“My agenda is simple: People now have contempt towards humanism, so I want children, the young generation, to treat humans as equals. I want to educate children that everyone is equal in the eyes of law, and everyone is entitled to fundamental rights without any exceptions,” Gayatri asserts. “Democracy is another subject which I try to educate the students about. It is absolutely necessary to learn what democracy is and about democratic rights. Children ought to know all these before they become adults.”

Gayatri’s journey, however, has not been so smooth. “In some schools they stopped me from entering, assuming that I came for begging. It was humiliating, but I anticipated this,” she says. Before being sheltered by the trans community in Hyderabad, Gayatri had to beg to earn a living. “When they assumed that I was begging, it hurt me that they are again seeing me as a beggar,” she adds. “But some school headmasters were very welcoming when I explained my intent.”  

The tour is also helping combat common prejudices about trans persons, she says. “Students are sometimes a little anxious when they see me and are not very comfortable approaching me. This is because of how the parents and teachers react to me. It is not the children’s fault,” Gayatri notes.  

Transphobia and prejudice also made it hard for Gayatri to get accommodation during the tour, including at government facilities. “When the lodges were fully occupied in Armoor, I approached the government girls’ hostel for a night’s stay. But they said that they cannot allow me to be amongst girls,” she alleges. 

However, Gayatri is undeterred by these hurdles and says she is determined to tour the entire state, covering all the 31 districts over the next few months.


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