The 22-year-old is in this fix because the Tamil Nadu Nurses and Midwives Council (TNNMC) only has ‘male’ and ‘female’ on their applications under the gender box.

This TN trans woman with a nursing degree cant find a job Heres why
news Gender Tuesday, July 02, 2019 - 11:56

Rakshika Raj graduated in her B Sc Nursing course last year. However, she isn’t proud of it yet. “What is the use? I graduated, but I do not have a license to practice yet,” she rues. The 22-year-old trans woman is in this fix because the Tamil Nadu Nurses and Midwives Council (TNNMC), the statutory body for registering nurses in the state, only has ‘male’ and ‘female’ on their applications under the gender box.

In the landmark 2014 National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court ruled that transgender persons can apply for education and employment under the ‘other’ gender category. However, the TNNMC is waiting for a government order (GO) to implement it, Rakshika alleges.

“When I had approached them last year to get myself registered, the forms did not have the ‘transgender’ option. When I pointed it out, they asked me to tick myself under ‘female’. That is not how I identify myself. I went through a lot to get my gender acknowledged in my certificates and I do not identify myself as a female,” she explains.

“When I met the registrar and told them about the 2014 Supreme Court judgment, they said their bye-laws had no provisions and cannot change things just for my sake without a GO. Isn’t that wrong guidance, equal to fraud?” she questions.

Rakshika also tells us that Dr K Menaka, Principal of Padmasree College of Nursing where she studied, has now been removed from the post. While Rakshika joined the college in 2014, her principal was of great support, and helped her complete the course as a trans woman. “She was of great support to me. She also made sure I was accepted for who I am by my peers. I was able to achieve what I did because everyone around me accepted me,” she tells us. 

Rakshika alleges TNNMC’s hand in the college management’s decision to remove the principal. She further tells us that the Registrar, Dr S Ani Grace Kalaimathi, has been clamping down on all those who support her. "She even tried to remove my name from the convocation list. It was the Vice Chancellor of the University who made sure I was called up on the stage to receive my certificate from the Governor. She also threatened my college management that if they supported me, she would make it difficult for the students who pass out from there. I am sure that even if I receive my lisence from TNNMC, the Registrar would make my work life difficult," she alleges.   

Rakshika, who now lives in Chengalpattu in Tamil Nadu’s Kancheepuram district with her adoptive mother Satyasri Sharmila, one of India’s only trans women lawyers, was born in Walajabad. With no support from her family, Rakshika had worked part time to pay her tuition fees. “As soon as I identified myself as a trans woman, my father, who is now a retired police sub inspector, refused to accept me. I fought, had to leave home and survive on my own to complete my education,” says Rakshika.

Now, even as a nursing graduate, Rakshika shares that her family has not been forthcoming towards her. “Even yesterday after the news report on my valedictory ceremony was published, my parents called and only spoke harsh words. Without parents’ acceptance, it is difficult for their children to survive isn’t it?” she shares.

Rakshika worked as a peer educator at SWAM Social Welfare Association for Men to support herself during her student days. Here, she began educating and creating awareness among HIV positive patients on safe sex. 

“Even though they have tested HIV positive, we have no rights to tell them not to have sex. So, during my sessions, I educate them on safe sex. As a student nurse I have good knowledge in this area. I earned Rs 3000 per month by being a part of this NGO.”

Her passion to become a nurse was so strong that Rakshika did not hesitate to strive under harsher conditions. “I have also begged and danced the Karagam through the nights sometimes to support my education,” she says.

Now, having lost one year’s work experience, Rakshika expresses anger in the government body’s carelessness. “I have lost one-year with no source of income. I had to struggle as a student. Now even after completing my education and receiving a certificate I am still forced to suffer. What is the point of all the hardships? Because of their carelessness, my future hangs in the balance,” she laments. 

Despite it all, Rakshika is still hopeful that things will change soon, and not just in her favour, but for others after her as well. “I want to serve for the society, and to help all those who are in need. Even as a young child I had wanted to become a nurse,” she asks. 

“I know of a young trans woman student who is currently in her second year of nursing. Things are changing from what they were. I don’t think my struggles are comparable to what my amma (Satyasri Sharmila) went through during her days. When I win this fight, it will benefit more such trans persons who want to become nurses,” she says hopefully.

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