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First Transgender College Principal Manobi on her struggles and victories

  • IWB Post
  •  May 29, 2015


Manobi Bandyopadhyay, 50, India’s first transgender college principal, tells the news website, about demons she had to fight to stay true to her identity and claim her place in a society that always saw her as an anomaly, until now

She had contemplated ending her life several times, or rather, she was forced to, thanks to an unsympathetic society. But destiny had other plans for her.

She will take charge of Krishnagar Women’s College in West Bengal as principal on June 9. She is currently an associate professor of Bengali at Vivekananda Satobarshiki Mahavidyalaya in Manikpara village of Paschim Medinapore district. Manobi had spoken about her suffering, emanating from a failed marriage to a Bengali businessman. She was humiliated often– from being assaulted at a public rally to being deserted by her husband. Here are excerpts from the interview with Manobi:

On Family:

I was born to a middle-class family in Naihati, and named Somnath Banerjee. I was the youngest boy and had two sisters. I always felt I was a woman inside. I don’t believe in the term ‘sexual orientation’. It is vague. I was like any other kid. As a boy, I went fishing, played football and climbed trees. But, I felt and recognised the woman within. Battling odds, I went ahead with my education. I completed MA from Jadavpur University and PhD in Third Gender studies from Kalyani University. My family supported me. My mother sacrificed her own desires like going to the cinema, beauty salons or buying expensive saris so that I complete my studies.

On challenges after 2003 genital surgery:

I have come back from near-death. There was a time I tried hanging myself from the ceiling. What else do you want to hear about? But, I wasn’t a person with suicidal tendencies. Society did everything to push me to death. I was an object of disgust and hatred. I was humiliated by my colleagues. I was often taken to courts on false charges because of my so-called ‘orientation’. Students were asked not to attend my classes. Even when I would go to rent a house, I was turned away. I was unwanted everywhere.

On overcoming and winning:

I believe in the teachings and philosophy of Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Paramhansa. I sought strength at Belur Math. I am a disciple of Swami Atmasthananda Maharaj. And as a principal now, my focus will be on freeing education from politics. Today, politics is ruining relationships between teachers and students. Teachers indulge in petty politics for professional gains. I will try to free my college of these.

On life beyond struggle:

I am a theatre artist. I loved dancing since childhood. I have penned my autobiography, Je Kotha Bola Hoyni (Things That I Have Never Said Before)’. I also run a magazine that discusses issues related to the third gender.

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