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Telangana’s first transgender doctors set to move High Court to pursue higher education as ‘third gender’

Dr Praachi Rathore and Dr Ruth John Paul Koyyala, who qualified in the NEET - PG last year, were denied seats as 'transgender women' and considered in the state counselling list under the category of ‘females’. At the national level, one of them secured a post-graduate medical seat as ‘both male and female’.

In the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test - Postgraduate (or NEET - PG) that they qualified last year, both were denied seats as transgender women and considered in the state counselling list under the category of females. While at the national level, one of them secured a post-graduate medical seat as ‘both male and female’.
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Their recent success could be termed a real shot in the arm for the transgender community, but the two young medical professionals from Hyderabad are gearing up for a sustained battle ahead – for acceptance of their identity in the pursuit of higher education. Earlier last month, doctors Praachi Rathore and Ruth John Paul Koyyala scaled new heights when they became the first from Telangana to secure government jobs, although on a one-year contract, at the state-run Osmania General Hospital in Hyderabad.

Even as they recount their journey of discrimination and humiliation at every level, they hope for larger acceptance and are set to approach the Telangana High Court. In the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test – Postgraduate (or NEET – PG) that they qualified last year, both were denied seats as transgender women and considered in the state counselling list under the category of females. While at the national level, one of them secured a post-graduate medical seat as ‘both male and female’.

“I don’t understand what ‘both male and female’ mean. If I wanted to go with my male identity as mentioned in my certificates, I would have chosen that. But I have applied for the NEET and got qualified under the transgender category,” says Dr Praachi Rathore, who got a seat for MD Biochemistry at ESI Medical College in Faridabad.

Both Dr Rathore and Dr Koyyala faced a similar fate when it came to the state counselling for medical seats as well after they secured respectable ranks in NEET – PG exams. Both were informed by the authorities at Dr Kaloji Narayana Rao University of Health Sciences (KNUHS) in Telangana’s Warangal that their MBBS certificates and their identities as per government documents were mismatched. “I explained to them that I am a transwoman though my MBBS degree and other certificates had a male name. I shared with them my transgender ID certificate given by the Telangana government and yet they included me under the female category,” says Dr Koyyala.

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When it comes to the seat allotment process, there is no option for the third gender. “Even after I explained to KNUHS that I am a transgender woman now and shared my transwoman ID, they allotted me a seat in MD Pharmacology under the female category,” says Dr Rathore. The 30-year-old says she is not comfortable pursuing higher education as a female and was exploring legal options to challenge the situation at an appropriate court of law.

While their current job as medical officers at the Osmania General Hospital is a ray of hope, Dr Rathore says she was depressed and suicidal at one point and thought of begging on the streets or joining sex work. An MBBS degree holder from Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) Adilabad, Telangana, she says her job as an emergency physician for three years at a city-based corporate hospital came to an abrupt end on the very next day of revealing her gender identity.

“The hospital administration just told me not to come to work from the next day. I felt it was very disrespectful of them to not consider my three years of work and send me away based on my gender. It was disrespectful to my education too,” recalls Dr Rathore, adding that no one was willing to offer her a job since then.

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On the other hand, Dr Koyyala says her mother stopped talking to her the day she opened up to her eight years ago. The 28-year-old, who has suffered humiliation since childhood for being different, has been living in Hyderabad since. She did her MBBS from Malla Reddy Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad. “It has been my dream since I was 8 to become a doctor. I studied hard and struggled at every level because of how people treated me. After completing my MBBS in 2018, at least 20 hospitals have rejected me. They looked at my appearance and mention of transgender in my resume,” says Dr Ruth, who hails from Khammam district.

Things began to change in 2020 when both Dr Rathore and Dr Koyyala were posted as medical officers at Mitr – USAID’s transgender clinic in Hyderabad. “Though it was a part-time job of three days a week with a four-hour work shift, this was our bread and butter,” says Dr Koyyala, adding they were grateful to TSACS (Telangana State Aids Control Society) and the administration of Osmania General Hospital for their present job.

“We hope sexual minorities are considered and reservations are given as per the NALSA judgment of 2014. We request the governments to consider our PG seats as supernumerary seats (seats over and above the sanctioned intake) as the medical counselling is already over,” says Dr Rathore. The 2014 judgment of Supreme Court led to the recognition of transgender community as ‘third gender’ and held that they were entitled to fundamental rights under the Constitution.

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Both of them say they are under extreme mental stress to compete again in the PG NEET exam and hope that the state as well as central governments take cognisance of their issues and address them. “All we want is justice. We want to be accepted as transgenders in education and employment, which is already provided by the law,” adds Dr Koyyala.

First published on: 07-12-2022 at 10:26 IST
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