Sunday was just another day for Tanusri, 26, and Shravyasri, 22, as they sweat it out at an open ground in Telangana’s Karimnagar district. At the break of dawn every day, the duo reach the ground to practise their drills and keep running for the next three hours. In the evening, again, they are among the many on the ground practising for the long jump and shot put events for about two hours.
Elsewhere, in the Nalgonda district, Nandini, 33, is following the same routine while Lovely, 29, in the Mancherial district, is trying to better her efforts with each try.
Having qualified for the preliminary written examination, the four aspirants are preparing for the physical examination for recruitment to the post of police constable to be conducted by Telangana State Level Police Recruitment Board (TSLPRB), starting December 8. Along with a transgender man, who is in the race to compete for the post of sub-inspector in the police department, the five are among the first from the transgender community in the state to have qualified for physical efficiency tests for police jobs.
Transgender people like them, however, in Telangana, are forced to compete with their male/female counterparts to prove their physical performance and endurance for the police job.
Standing on the cusp of accessing public employment for the first time in the state, they are aware of the challenges and prepared for the worst if they have to break the glass ceiling. They told indianexpress.com Sunday. “Ask us why we want to join the police force. Is it simply because we want a dignified living? Despite educational qualifications, we are not treated with respect as fellow humans and face discrimination everywhere. We feel as the police department is responsible to safeguard the society, we, as transgenders, can bring a positive impact in the department,” says a 32-year-old, who has transitioned from a female to a trans male now, requesting anonymity.
Even as they prepare hard, they lack proper guidance or clarity in rules. “In the job application, there was no option for transgenders. We don’t know who we compete against. We don’t know if we should practise the events for males or females,” points out Nandini, a BSc and BEd graduate who is currently working with a community-based organisation in Nalgonda.
Shravyasri, who has completed auxiliary nursing midwifery (ANM) training and works in the community, adds, “even the trainers on the ground are asking us if we should be trained for the events for male or female aspirants. We feel that we should be allowed to either compete with women or in a different category with separate cut-off marks for transgenders.”
Tanusri, an MCom graduate, asks why Telangana does not give opportunities for transgender persons like her even though the central government job notifications provide the option for a third gender in the applications. “We have our changed names in Aadhaar and voter ID. But the application required us to provide our name and gender as mentioned in the Class 10 memo. So we have applied as males but we have fully transitioned already. It is unfair to make us compete with males,” she adds.
Her training partner, Shravyasri adds that their multiple representations to the authorities in this regard have fallen on deaf ears. “I have appeared for the written exam like Shravyasri. My photo, name, Aadhaar and voter’s ID have my new identity. When I go for the physical efficiency tests, it will have to be name and gender as assigned at birth,” she says, sharing a common concern.
Lovely, a BSc degree holder, who is elated about qualifying for the physical efficiency tests, feels the issue is not only about police recruitment. “Yes, we have come here with a lot of support and confidence given by our community leaders. If we have to get equal status in society, the recruitment process to jobs across all departments should have the option for others.”
While their grievances are the same, they say that the authorities should have consulted Telangana State Transgender Welfare Board or the relevant NGOs before taking a decision. Since the recruitment notification was issued by the TSLPRB, more than four detailed representations have been submitted to the DGP, TSLPRB chairperson, and others, they say.
The 32-year-old, who requested anonymity, adds that transgender men like him are genetically and physiologically females and asks how is it fair to expect them to compete with males. “Socio-legally they may have transitioned. Even if they have undergone medical surgery, the skeletal structure and muscles don’t change so much,” he adds.
Transwoman and transgender rights activist Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli explains that the issue was not about creating a separate option for transgenders in the job application form.
“This is the first time trans persons have applied for government jobs in Telangana. In police recruitments, as much as males and females have criteria based on their genetics, body, anatomy or physiology in performance and endurance tests, the government should have announced criteria for transgender persons and their many identities,” feels Vyjayanti .
A member of the Telangana State Transgender Welfare Board, Laila is convinced that if the educated members of the community are not given opportunities to move forward in society, the rest would not even dare to dream of going forward.
Society expects the transgender community to eke out a living by doing regular jobs and not beg on the streets or do prostitution but would not give it any opportunity, adds Laila. Wondering why the state was trying to force fit applicants into their gender and names assigned at birth by considering only Class 10 marks memo in applications, Vyjayanti rues “during events, these transwomen will have to compete with males even though they have fully transitioned to female bodies. They don’t have male genitals and do not have any testosterone left to give them an adrenaline rush.”
VV Srinivasa Rao, chairman of the TSLPRB, feels that the inclusion of transgender persons in government jobs, though not overnight, may happen slowly and steadily. Speaking to indianexpress.com, he says the recruitment was going on as per the rules as decided by the government after months of deliberations and discussions. “We are six months into the ongoing recruitment process. The rules keep changing with time but at present, we are just following the rules (at hand). No one has discretions. All exceptions are based on court orders. But changing them (rules) midway is unfair to the candidates who are in the fray,” he says.
However, the transgender community is certain that the state government ought to have given their community reservation as per the Supreme Court’s NALSA judgement of 2014, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020.
“Fourteen came forward and four have qualified for the first time. All of them have fully transitioned after undergoing surgery and they should compete with women or have separate criteria for selection,” adds Laila.
Whereas, Vyjayanti points out that the 2018 order of Supreme Court Judge Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman was very clear that all central and state governments must sensitise themselves and stress particularly the police.
“This is a clear case of contempt of two Supreme Court judgments and the Transgender Rules 10 says appropriate governments must make changes to existing public policies to ensure transgender persons are covered. So within the police establishment, what were the changes made in public policy if the TSLPRB did not even give an option for transgenders in the application? This is just the A of A to Z,” Vyjayanti asks.
According to her, Telangana already provides for intersectional reservations on grounds of gender within vertical reservations of caste and yet transgender people have been excluded from the same. “And, we already have a precedent in neighbouring Karnataka, where a nudge from the high court was enough for the state government to issue an order in 2021 offering 1 per cent horizontal reservation for trans people within the existing reservations of caste,” adds Vyjayanti.
The TSLPRB is currently in the process of recruitment to fill 17,500 vacancies, including sub-inspector (civil), police constables (civil), transport constables, and prohibition and excise constables. Over 11 lakh applicants appeared in written exams for these posts, of which over 4 lakh have qualified for the next round.
Starting December 8, the Board will conduct a physical measurement test/ physical efficiency test (PMT/PET) for 23 days across the state. While men need to compete in a 1,600-metre run, women need to qualify in an 800-metre run before proceeding to the next level — height measurement, long jump and shot put events.