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'Every step is a fight'- the transgender community speaks on why they leave school.

Every step is a fight for space, dignity, access to health services and education for the transgender

"Every step is a fight
Every breath a small victory
A sheet of paper a milestone
A pay slip, a dream that was feared to never come true."

Nayana is a male born transgender who has found her foot among the working class of Bangalore.Her message of hope, survival and success is an inspiration for people from her community, and for anyone who knows what it feels to be not accepted in a country that just likes to acknowledge two genders.

Nayana sits across me on the faded carpet in her office and recounts-

"I had the hardest time when I was growing up, discovering who I was and my family was distraught with that, especially my father.

At 22, I chose to undergo ‘castration’, a traumatic physical experience ,but that which gave me the ‘body I had always craved for’, that of a woman.

Taking a course in software programming , investing all my money in it , was the best decision of my life.
Today I work as a community member in an NGO besides having a choice of finding work in Information Technology.

I chose to fight for my space, and here I am!

I know why transgender drop-out of school. I have known it in my own life. The boys tell us, don’t come here. The girls say don’t come here. In the way we are pushed out in every possible sense, dropping out of school is the most natural outcome. Where will we go??

I am sure many people do not realize that the way you treat us like dirtier-than-dirt affects our life decisions, we stop to go to school , we bid good bye to getting education, Though we know education is important, but our dignity is important as well.

I was one of the lucky ones to get to continue my education, in bits and pieces, with many disruptions in between that came from social pressure of being a transgender.

It’s a very complex environment we live and work in. While guarding our own rights and dignity at every step, sometimes depression sets in. It gets accentuated by the loneliness of not having family close to you.

We are being issued a gender certificate from the Government of Karnataka that allows us to say, I am a transgender. This has come about after years of struggling for our own identity.

It feels like victory now."

In the two hours I talked to Nayana in her office I found a powerful leader in her and a role model for her community. She has led her life with conviction, pursuing education and working to support herself in a culture which dismisses their very existence.

We would have to begin with our schools. We would have to make a new line , one that stands in between the all boys and all girls lines.That is education. That is empowerment.

For now, Shine Nayana Shine.

Urmila Chanam
Activist & Journalist

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Standing tall, Nayana in her office
Nayana in Chitrakala Parishad transgender photo exhibition
An active community member and a pillar of strength to others
She is my inspiration. Nayana and me



Sutanuka Banerjee's picture


Nice to hear how she is not intimidated in claiming basic rights where transgenders and transsexuals are taboos. Hope the society gives all a warm place to live in.

very inspiring post indeed. Loved your definition of true education which does not lie between the dividing line of two genders.



I live in my convoluted mind....

Urmila Chanam's picture

Our hearts and our homes

Dear Sutanuka,

You know, in the cities and metros like Bangalore, I have seen people being more tolerant towards transgenders and other sexual minority groups but if you scratch the surface, we still do not let them in our life, professionally and personally. So where is the progress.

Thanks for your thoughts and for your words.

Love and hugs,
Urmila Chanam,

It takes just one to change many

Wendyiscalm's picture


Wow! Urmila, this is a courageous and necessary article, you feisty young lady. I hope you will write more on it to make us aware. Most of us are not. But if it is in our face more we will all remember to begin the journey of helping with this. I know in Zambia, a doctor and many others have told me that NO MEN are gay. No such thing. Of course, it is illegal to be gay. And I KNOW many many are gay and probably lesbians too. So sad. To have to hide behind your true soul.

But keep us thinking Urmila, as you always do. And things will begin to change.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),


P.S. Thank you personally Urmila for all your help to me, for being there for me. I am working on getting skype and will let you know. Love ya, girl.

Wendy Stebbins
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Dear Wendy,

This is most interesting to have you say that in Zambia, the value propagated is- There are no gays in Zambia! Few days back, I was hosting a Kenyan delegation of top government officials and program implementers and one of them raised this topic. She said that they are not aware if gays, eunuchs or transgenders are there in Kenya or not, and if they are there, how many are they, is something they have never thought of.

This denial of a huge segment of our society makes sure these people lead MISERABLE lives!!!!

I am so glad you enjoyed reading Naina's account and I will personally carry this to her the next time I meet her.

I am always there for you Wendy. Kindly get a Skype soon and have our first conversation. I have so much to share :)

Love and hugs,
Always in my prayers,
Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

Wendyiscalm's picture

Loved the pictures

Hi Urmilla,

Loved the pictures of your mom, dad and you. You play golf ! I used to. Great game to teach focus, humility and patience, wouldn't you say?



Did you see that 14 year old Japanese kid who made it into the Master's. Really something.

Wendy Stebbins
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Urmila Chanam's picture

No golf!

Dear Wendy,

I am no golfer myself but I find myself around it most times as my dad and brother are great players! I have not read about the Japanese kid, send me the link if possible.

I am doing good but busy at work. Hope to catch up on weekend here.

Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

turtledove100's picture

What a courageous story!

Thank you for telling Naina's story Urmila! What a courageous life she has led! To stand tall in the face of all the discrimination she's had to endure speaks volumes about her character! Her community is very lucky to have her to speak up and guide them into a new way of thinking-- one that acknowledges EVERYONE equally, where nobody has to hide who they truly are!

"Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach" (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author and poet)

Dear Turtledove,

I agree with every little thing you have said about Naina!! It is incomprehensible for an ordinary person to realize what stigma and discrimination can do in one's life. What is the saddest part is, many such Nainas continue to live in a disguise, concealing their true identity out of familial pressure and societal expectation.

A life led on the terms of other people, is no life at all.

Thank you for your thought and your appreciation of Naina. I will carry them to her when I meet her next.

Love and warm wishes
Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

Lea's picture

Dear Urmila, Thank you very

Dear Urmila,

Thank you very much for telling Naina's story. Sadly, stories like hers are not often shared for fear that they will scare people. She has shown tremendous courage in not letting anyone dictate how she should live her life. She stood tall and never gave up in the face of hostility and discrimination. It's really wonderful that you gave her a voice and highlighted her accomplishments, i.e., becoming a leader and role model in her community.
I wish there could be more people like Naina who want to create an environment where everyone is accepted, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion....She's truly making a difference!
Thank you again for this inspiring story!

Urmila Chanam's picture

Enabling Environment

Dear Lea,

Let me tell you about the joy I feel that you, and women around the world are not scared of 'Naina' and her friends and wish her to be successful and lead a fulfilling life. I always thought in my quiet moments, how many people really love them and I was clueless. Now I know there are people who would given them a chance- EVERYONE DESERVES A CHANCE!!!

In accepting let us create an enabling environment for them. Let them keep away their veil, embrace their sexuality and live freely.

Thank you again for your love.

Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

irmia's picture

Thank you for this lovely posting

Hi Urmila:

Your article really moved me. Transgender is often invisible. In my country, it's very hard for them to access an ID Card because state does not define their gender.


Dear Mia,

I am going through a nightmare applying for my passport. There are so many documents of proof authorities ask you for.
it's endless. I faced more trouble than others because I didn't have a voter's ID card. I have moved all my life and never stayed longer than 2 years anywhere. The trouble I have gone through because of this document is nothing short of a nightmare.

I think to sit the plight of our third gender and how they must live without documents of identification????

It's tough and it must be a nightmare

I value you- you have compassion.Keep in touch :)

Love and prayers
Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

Y's picture

I wonder why we still define

I wonder why we still define ourselves by the organs in and on our bodies. When we value all the talents of all the people on earth, we will hopefully, all become comfortable in our own skins.

I have many traits that are more common in men in my country, for which I have always been (and am) persecuted. I am also a strong mother and grandmother because I was born with female parts. I am simply a strong person, no matter what parts my body was born with.


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