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POPxo Power Women List

#POPxoPowerWomenList: Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju On Reclaiming Her Power & Identity

khushboo sharmakhushboo sharma  |  Apr 30, 2021
#POPxoPowerWomenList: Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju On Reclaiming Her Power & Identity

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It was in 2014 that trans people were recognised as the ‘third gender’ in the landmark NALSA vs. Union of India judgment. Since then, we have constantly talked about how India, unlike other countries, celebrates its trans people. Now, here’s a question: does acknowledgment imply respect? Well, the hard truth is that it does not. One of Karnataka’s first trans woman doctors, Dr. Trinetra’s Haldar Gummaraju, is a living example.

Dr. Trinetra grew up being mocked and bullied for her gender identity. She was hurt, marginalised, and called derogatory names simply for being who she was. On October 30, 2020, she put an end to it. Dr. Trinetra took to Instagram and proudly announced, “”Ch*kka, tr*nny, f*ggot, m*ttha, k*jja, and countless other titles were awarded to me. This day forward, it’s Doctor.” She had begun her MBBS internship and refused to be addressed by any other title but the one that she had earned. 

It still breaks Dr. Trinetra’s heart to think that she had to ‘prove’ something to be respected, to be treated like a human being. Well-acquainted with the prejudice, Dr. Trinetra never misses a chance of proudly shouting it to the world that she exists and she is thriving. Every time she is told that she cannot be a woman, her reply is a resounding “watch me!” 

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

A few years ago, she started her YouTube channel, The Trinetra Method, to document her transition after her sex reassignment surgery (SRS). Through the channel, she inspired and guided trans people in India about transition and dealing with body dysphoria. Dr. Trinetra made her 2020 power move by showing what kind of a difference education and right support can make to trans lives. Dr. Trinetra inspired the trans community in India by emerging as a true icon. She used the power of social media to document the experience of being a trans woman in India. 

Dr. Trinetra has been using her platform to create resources for everyone who seeks to go for SRS. She has also been amplifying crowdfunding requests for her community members and educating India about trans rights and identity. In the past year, she gave new dimensions to the words “influencer” by showing the world how it is done. Dr. Trinetra is one of those trailblazing women who claimed 2020 as their own. With the POPxo Power Women List 2020, we are celebrating these changemakers who went the extra mile, swiftly adapted to the new normal and made strides that had a lasting impact. Of course, Dr. Trinetra had to be a part of this list. 

In a recent interaction with POPxo, she talked about her experience of being bullied, of being marginalised, and of finally reclaiming her power. Excerpts below. 

What does power mean to you?

Power is one of many things accorded to some over others unfairly. In a society divided so deeply along lines of gender, caste, class, bodily ability, and more–power is often the absence of obstacles and hurdles, the recognition and acknowledgment one receives over others unfairly. It is what allows the amplification of one voice and suppression of another. Those with this undue privilege–often cisgender, heterosexual, upper-caste, upper-class individuals without a disability–have a responsibility to do what they can to nullify this power imbalance. As a transgender woman, I’ve felt powerless in more instances than I can recall, but have also realised that as someone with other aforementioned privileges, I’ve been accorded more agency, access, validation–and therefore, power than so many of my contemporaries. Power is a delicate thing, easy to spot, and easier to misuse. That said, power is also the ability to resist your unrelenting erasure from the mainstream, to raise your voice and overthrow the status quo. When the individual is powerless, the community is power.

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

In 2020, you shut down haters and trolls by earning the title of doctor and inspired so many at the same time. Who has been your biggest inspiration through the journey?

Firstly, while becoming a doctor/medical intern has been a huge milestone and has shut so many trolls up, it’s unfortunate that one has to hit that benchmark in order to be taken seriously. One shouldn’t have to prove their intellectual and other abilities to be given basic human respect. My inspiration has constantly been everyone that came before me and had to brave a system, a former world without as much access to resources, information, healthcare, and legal aid. My strength is because of them.

You started your transition journey in 2017. What was the most challenging phase during this period?

2017 may have been the beginning of my social, medical and legal transition, but I believe transition is more than those things. The processes of introspection and self-discovery aren’t limited by time, and started the day I came into this world, and continue to this day. The most challenging period, however, was the time after my gender-affirming surgeries. To deal with the physical pain of it all while readjusting to an entirely new experience of this world, and how one will now be perceived online and off, came as a challenge I absolutely couldn’t have predicted the intensity of.

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

A message that you want to share with anyone who is struggling with gender dysphoria?

The pain WILL fade. It IS NOT, by any means, permanent. Sure, society will keep reminding you every once in a while of how rigidly it wants you to fit a binary–and that will bring you pain. However, this pain isn’t here to stay. You will learn to tune out a lot of the noise and deal with the complexities of your identity with time.

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

Your advice to someone who is considering gender-affirming surgery?

Don’t let ANYONE tell you that becoming yourself by any means necessary is unnatural. Gender affirming procedures are life-saving if you need them, and I can attest to this. That said, give yourself time to figure out what you need to affirm your gender identity. While surgery may take away your incongruence to whatever degree, it can’t undo the hurt society has caused you–the process of healing from the induced insecurity, invalidation, self-doubt is very different from simply undergoing a procedure. Give yourself as much time to heal mentally as you do physically.

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

Let’s talk about the difference that a strong support system can make when it comes to trans lives and careers.

Natal families are often the first people that a trans individual has to deal with in their journeys–support or rejection at this stage can be fundamentally life-altering. Familial support has truly been my biggest privilege– one of what I have today would’ve been possible had I not come from a family that chose to do what is right on many fronts–to accept, educate, and support me. It must also be added that my family had the social and financial means to support me, and that too is a privilege. While familial support is important to address, one has to continue addressing structural inequalities to ensure we’re all supported as wholly and equally as possible.

When it comes to trans needs, you have been vocal about the problems in the Indian healthcare system. How do you plan on addressing these problems as you are a part of the system now?

While I currently intend to take a hiatus from medicine to pursue acting, I fully intend to keep speaking about healthcare inequity and amplifying voices speaking of the same. If ever I have the capital, I’d love to invest in trans-affirming healthcare financially, and also practice it as a doctor if I return full-time.

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

You used the power of social media to start an important movement. What has been the most fulfilling part of the journey?

The most fulfilling part of this journey has been the overwhelming degree of solidarity and support–never did I imagine that I’d see a day when my identity and expression would not just be accepted but celebrated.

Your blog and Instagram offer expansive information about transition, dysphoria, and your experiences as a trans woman in India. Ever thought of putting it all together in a book?

Constantly, and I believe the day isn’t far!

Featured Image Courtesy: Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju