First Trans Student: Noor Shekhawat's Transformative Voyage from Dropout to Rajasthan University

Noor, in a candid conversation with The Mooknayak, shed light on the pervasive discrimination faced by transgender individuals in contemporary civilized society.
Noor Shekhawat
Noor Shekhawat

Jaipur. Amidst the backdrop of the 2014 NALSA judgment by the Supreme Court, which unequivocally recognized the transgender community as a distinct third gender and mandated protection against discrimination, the ground reality remains disheartening. Despite legal safeguards, members of this community continue to endure social derision and marginalization. Regrettably, even their families, who ought to provide support, often shy away from acknowledging their gender identities openly, perpetuating the cycle of neglect that trans women and men encounter.

Noor Shekhawat, hailing from Rajasthan, has recently garnered attention for a ground breaking achievement. On the 19th of July, Noor accomplished a significant milestone by having 'transgender' officially included in the gender category on their birth certificate. In a poignant contrast, Noor's earlier birth certificate had identified them as Aditya Pratap, a male. Aged 31, Noor's aspirations now extend to pursuing higher education at the esteemed Maharani College, affiliated with the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. Upon successful admission, they will etch their name as the first transgender student to grace the university's halls. In an exclusive dialogue with The Mooknayak, Noor Shekhawat courageously shared the intricate tapestry of their life experiences.

Noor receiving the birth certificate from government officials.
Noor receiving the birth certificate from government officials.Pic-Oneindia

Noor candidly illuminated the complexities that emanate within families when a transgender child is born. Regrettably, many families opt to conceal the child's true identity, imposing limitations on their authentic self-expression. The ultimatum often presented is conforming to pre-existing norms or leaving the familial home. This stifling environment becomes a breeding ground for mental anguish for transgender individuals. Concurrently, societal attitudes compound the pain, casting a disparaging gaze upon them. Noor empathetically conveyed their own struggles, recounting the internal turmoil they grappled with. The oscillation between self-perceptions, of not fitting the conventional moulds of either gender, was profoundly distressing. The quest for self-understanding metamorphosed into a constant barrage of unanswerable queries - "What makes me incomplete?" "Why do I feel this way?" Such questions remained an enigma, concealed within their consciousness. Unable to fathom their own existence, articulating it to others became a seemingly insurmountable task.

Born in Jaipur in June 1992, Noor's upbringing was shadowed by adversity. Losing their father at the tender age of three, they were initially designated as a boy within the household. Time progressed, enrolling them in school alongside their younger brother. Yet, their scholastic experience was tarnished by the callous behaviour of classmates, who subjected them to emotional torment through taunts and jeers. Tragically, confiding in their mother about this ordeal only yielded reproach.

Unmasking the Trauma of Sexual Coercion

Noor's life took a traumatic turn when they were subjected to sexual coercion by their classmates. This traumatic incident left an indelible mark on their psyche, inducing fear that permeated every thought. When Noor mustered the courage to confide in their mother, their pleas for understanding were met with blame and physical punishment. The aftermath was staggering, rendering them dread-ridden even at the sound of the school bell. To escape further humiliation, Noor adopted a deceptive strategy of appearing to attend classes while lingering near the school gates. Such evasion led to teachers alerting their mother about their absences, which in turn subjected them to more mistreatment.

Navigating through these turbulent waters, Noor managed to complete intermediate education and enter college. However, college life did not prove to be a sanctuary. Instead, it introduced them to a new facet of adversity. The hostile treatment they endured at the hands of fellow students, particularly the male students, left an indelible mark. The culmination of these challenges eventually led them to discontinue their studies in the middle of their first year in 2013.

Finding Sanctuary Within the Transgender Community

The pain of being unable to confide in anyone, coupled with family neglect and societal scorn, drove Noor to the brink of suicide. In their despair, they found solace and support within the transgender community in 2014. Connecting with fellow transgender individuals afforded them a sense of belonging they had never experienced before. This newfound camaraderie provided a refuge from the judgmental world outside, offering them a space where they were understood without the need for explanation. Noor's transition to Udaipur brought a renewed sense of purpose and acceptance. Here, amidst the supportive company of their transgender peers, they finally felt the warmth of true family, a stark contrast to the isolation they had endured before.

Within the cocoon of the transgender community, Noor began to reimagine their future. Their desire to pursue education, once shattered, began to rekindle. Seeing others pursuing academic aspirations ignited their own longing to learn. Past traumas, though haunting, were gradually offset by the encouragement and counsel they received, particularly from Manju ji at Mahatma Gandhi Hospital.

Noor with PhD scholar Shivraj Gurjar
Noor with PhD scholar Shivraj Gurjar

The beginning of a transformational journey

A pivotal turning point in Noor Shekhawat's life was their encounter with PhD scholar Shivraj Gurjar, whose research focused on transgender individuals. Noor became Gurjar's first case study, marking the beginning of a transformational journey.

Gurjar's curiosity led him to engage deeply with Noor's experiences, aiming to comprehend the challenges faced by transgender individuals. Noor candidly shared the struggles they had endured, including the deeply rooted desire to discontinue their education due to the overwhelming notion that they would never have the opportunity to achieve their dreams of becoming a doctor, engineer, or holding esteemed positions in the police, administration, or private sector.

Upon listening to Noor's narrative, Gurjar's encouragement was a beacon of hope. He pointed out the provisions embedded in the Transgender Act, assuring them that they could continue their education by securing the necessary documentation. Initially, Noor was hesitant, but over time, they recognized the significance of their actions for their community. They saw themselves as trailblazers, acknowledging that their life experiences, although challenging, could pave the way for a more inclusive society where others like them could flourish.

Noor says that transgender individuals have existed in the world since time immemorial and are even mentioned in religious texts. "Our community has been present both in the past and continues to be today. but why does this supposedly civilized society display such duplicity towards us? While people show respect and seek blessings and touch their feet, they also create barriers. Guests exchange greetings, yet the same people hesitate to rent a house to a transgender individual. When it comes to our rights, why do these very people who hold authority often question the necessity of providing for us." Noor questions.

On one hand, eunuchs are accorded respect and invited to partake in prayers, but on the other hand, they are subjected to curses and ridicule behind their backs as they navigate through the world.

Noor's understanding of their own gender identity took root during their formative years. Raised as a male since childhood, they recounted how they were categorized as such throughout their schooling and even during college enrolment. Yet, as they approached adolescence and began to perceive the stark physical distinctions between boys and girls, the truth of their own identity became inescapable. Society's rigid binary classification of gender further heightened their awareness of not fitting into those prescribed molds, ultimately leading them to a profound self-realization.

Noor expressed immense gratitude to Shivraj Gurjar for their pivotal role in their transformation. Gurjar's guidance and counsel enabled Noor to navigate the bureaucratic landscape and secure the necessary documents for their identity. It was this newfound clarity that empowered them to establish an NGO that advocates for transgender rights. With unwavering dedication, they have committed themselves to uplifting their community, driven by the belief that genuine change can be catalyzed through education, awareness and empathy. Noor aptly stated, "I am grateful to have found the strength to embrace my true self, and I am determined to create a world where every transgender individual can do the same."

Meanwhile, Bhanwarlal Bairwa, Director of Economic and Statistics Department and Chief Registrar (Births and Deaths), who issued Rajasthan’s first transgender birth certificate to Noor Shekhawat, said along with the birth records of males and females, the birth records of transgender persons will now be available on the corporation’s portal. An awareness programme will also be launched to encourage transgenders to apply for their birth certificates, Bhairwa said.

Story Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai

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