Transgender student defies norms to clear Class 12 exams in Tamil Nadu

While the trauma from outside was in itself a challenge, Sadhana was also subject to harassment from her father.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes onlyPhoto | AP

THOOTHUKUDI: No hurdles could stop 17-year-old Sadhana Lakshmi, a transgender person, from clearing the Class 12 exam. Forced to stop attending classes, allegedly due to sexual harassment, Sadhana hammered down walls of stereotypes to score 289 marks and pass the exams with flying colours.

Born to Jeyamurugan and Bal Lakshmi of Therku Muthalapuram, near Ettayapuram, Sadhana studied at a VOC Government Higher Secondary School in Kovilpatti. Speaking to TNIE Sadhana Lakshmi said, “I discontinued my classes after the quarterly exams as I was constantly harassed and nagged by fellow students. My classmates disregarded me and passed lewd comments about me, sometimes to my face.”

While traveling to school, located 26 kilometres away, by bus, strangers used to harass me, Sadhana said, adding, “As I was harassed both at school and in public places, I decided to stop attending classes after the quarterly exam. However, I continued to contact some teachers who sent me study materials and model question papers. I am thankful to my teacher Nirmala and headmaster Suresh Kumar for encouraging me to appear for the exams.”

At home, she managed to study by watching videos related to the subjects online. “I learnt mathematics, physics and biology by watching videos on YouTube. Chemistry, which was a crucial subject, was taught in person by one teacher, Maheshwari,” the 17-year-old said.

While the trauma from outside was in itself a challenge, Sadhana was also subject to harassment from her father.

“When I was 13 years of age, in Class 6, I could sense some changes with myself, but hid it fearing ostracization. During the Covid-19 induced lockdown, I learnt about the implications of these changes in my identity, but I was worried about revealing it to others,” she said.

I finally opened up to my parents in 2023, and they were unwilling to accept me. However, my mother finally came around, while my father refused to accept my identity. He harassed me and beat me. Things were so extreme that I eventually had to lodge a police complaint against my father at the Kovilpatti East Police in February this year, Sadhana said, adding, “My parents have separated now. While I appeared for the exams using my birth name Madhavan, a transgender person adopted me in December 2023 and rechristened me as Sadhana Lakshmi.”

Recalling that she managed to score 344 marks in SSLC public examination, Sadhana said she could have scored over 400 marks had she attended classes regularly. “Now, I wish to pursue my studies without any disturbances. I would like to study medicine, or pursue a career in modeling,” Sadhana added.

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