Dalit & Transgender Activist Grace Banu Is A Ray Of Hope For Her Community
History was scripted when Grace Banu became India’s first trans engineer after waging a war legally to get admitted to a professional course. Hailing from Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, Grace was never comfortable with being identified as a male. She decided to open up about her identity, which led to a storm in her life. “I had a tormented childhood,” she recalls.
by Kayalvizhi Arivalan
“The people I had around me disappeared the very next day after I came out of the closet. I was removed from my school. My mother later understood what I was going through, and she stood by me. She was adamant that I continue my education. She was adamant that, no matter what happened, education would always be the saviour of my life, and she was right,” reveals the transgender activist who, despite being permitted to continue schooling, was not allowed to enter and exit the school at school hours. She could not enter the classroom and was made to sit outside the class and was strictly kept from speaking to others in the school. “All this created trauma, and I was sent to a mental asylum. I read a lot of books on leaders such as Karl Max, which changed my way of life.”
After completing a diploma with a score of 95%, Grace tried to enter an engineering college where she was denied admission. She filed an RTI asking if transgenders could go for higher studies, but the reply was not in her favour. After filing a Public Interest Litigation, Grace was admitted to a private college – not a government college – despite having such high scores. “Every day I travelled nearly five hours, but I never gave up on my studies; rather I was motivated to prove that transgenders are equally talented,” says Grace, who added that the discrimination that she faced at school and college because of her caste and gender identity kept the fire burning within her. Even after securing a job through placement, Grace faced harassment in the office, which she says only further motivated her.
In fact, every difficulty she encounters pushes her to break through the barrier and find a solution. That is how her most recent venture, Queer Publishing, came to be. “In 2019, I could not find a publisher for my book; there has always been a vacuum in the field of publications for the LGBTQIA community,” Grace reveals. “No publisher in town was interested in hearing the story of the most marginalised people. Nobody is ready to present our stories.” She founded Queer Publishing in December 2022. “We are also thrilled to be a part of the 46th Annual Chennai International Book Fair,” she enthuses. “The years of struggle have earned us this space. We have queer literature in every Indian language.” Queer Publishing has already published three books, and is excited to welcome more queer authors to share their stories.
Courtesy : Femina
Note: This news piece was originally published in femina.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights.