Sruthy Sithara attended the call with a professional ‘hello’; there was no hint of the previous night’s exhilaration when she was crowned the Queen of Dhwayah, the title winner at the second edition of the transgender beauty pageant in Kochi. “I am back to work,” says the 25-year-old, from her office – the transgender wing of the Social Justice Department in Thiruvananthapuram where she works as a project assistant.
Winning the pageant was something Sruthy hadn’t dreamt of. “I had been hoping to be in the top five. This is awesome,” she says.
The contest had three rounds, wherein the 16 contestants had to try traditional, designer and western wear while showcasing their talents and attitude. In the final round, where six remained on stage, they were asked to write on a common subject in one minute and read it out. “We were asked what our biggest contribution to society would be on winning the International Transqueen title?,” says Sruthy, recalling the answer she has learnt by heart – Privileged to be a transgender person, I will inspire everyone to come through with flying colours with determination and positive attitude towards life. “That’s my motto too,” she adds.
A few years ago, Sruthy was Praveen, a youngster confused about identity, often thinking that it was a mental problem. Trapped inside a male body, Sruthy suffered throughout school days, unable to confide in anyone. “I studied at a residential school in Kottayam and till class XII, I had no idea about the transgender community. Once I was in college, I got exposed to people like me and felt better.” But she was still Praveen and went on to work in Kochi in a corporate job. Slowly, she started the coming out process, but contrary to her fears, everyone treated her with respect.
“Two of my friends talked to my dad about my identity; he was quick to understand and accept. My brother too, though shocked at first, took it gracefully. So my biggest fear was allayed,” says Sruthy, who opened up to her colleagues, who too accepted her. The greatest support, she says, came from her friends from her school, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Kottayam. “We all grew up together and for them, I had been Praveen. But when I came out, they stood behind me and continue to be my pillars of support,” an exuberant Sruthy states.
She wouldn’t say that it was all a cakewalk. There were the usual stares, rejection, suspicion and difficulty to find a space to stay but Sruthy considers it all as part of slow acceptance. “I ignore the negativity around because I have a dream and all my focus is on that – to become an IAS officer. That has been my mother’s dream and now mine. I want to work towards uplifting persons from socially and economically challenging premises,” she adds.
Sruthy is awaiting the results of her civil services preliminary examination, which she wrote under the guise of Praveen. She explains, “Transgender persons are not eligible to register for UPSC exams. I would attempt again if I don’t clear and would become the country’s first transgender IAS officer.” Determination ebbs in her voice.