K. Prithika Yashini talks in a measured tone, her voice revealing no emotion during the one-hour-long conversation. She has a well-framed answer to every question, probably due to her numerous media interactions over the last few weeks. But mention ‘khaki’ and her eyes light up; suddenly, she’s an excited 20-something on the cusp of a dream life.
“I can’t wait to wear the uniform,” she grins. “I will be the first transgender to don the khaki as a sub-inspector, imagine!” The 25-year-old is set to become the first trans-woman sub-inspector in Tamil Nadu and is probably the first transgender sub-inspector in India too.
Prithika’s life follows a pattern that’s similar to any transgender’s. But what makes her different, is her refusal to give up on life. She spent most part of this year in court, taking on a system that makes it a nightmare for someone like her to be treated like a normal person.
It all began in early 2015, when Prithika applied for the post of sub-inspector of police with the Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board. “My application was rejected since there was confusion with my name; also, the form had only the male and female categories to choose from and I chose female,” she says. She decided to go to court; for she wanted a fair chance at the recruitment process. Thus began a legal battle that Prithika fought with the help of advocate Bhavani Subbarayan till she got her due.
“The High Court passed an order granting me permission to appear for the written exam,” she says. Every stage of the recruitment process was an obstacle due to her gender. “In the end, I attended the interview and a court order was passed to grant me an SI post,” she says.
Seated in her shared, one-room home, her eyes frequently drawn to the mobile phone in her hand, Prithika remembers her teenage years as the son of a driver-tailor couple in Salem. “It was when I was in class XI that I felt different. I didn’t feel like a boy.”
Her parents, who were helpless, took her to temples, doctors and even astrologers to “set things right”. But Prithika knew what she wanted by then: friendship and a life in which she could be herself. She ran away to Chennai in 2011 and landed at Central Station, with nothing but a few phone numbers to start with.
Soon, Prithika realised transgenders accepted people into their community more readily than society; for most transgenders are quick to trust and give. “I made new friends… Banu, Selvi, Smiley, Glady, Swappna and Selvam and got a job as a warden in a ladies hostel.” She spent the next few years changing jobs and houses. “I’ve changed up to seven houses till date,” she says. “I now work for an app developer as a curator of stories about my community.”
Now that she’s in the spotlight, Prithika feels she’s in a responsible position. “I want to be an example for my community and do whatever I can for them,” she says. “I hope to become a respected sub-inspector; one who places her duty ahead of everything else.” Prithika aims to crack the UPSC exam and become an IPS officer. “There’s so much I want to do! I want to work towards reservation for transgenders in education and employment and for the cause of women and the lesser-privileged.”
But mostly, she hopes to sit quietly with a book and read. “I couldn’t read anything in peace over the last few months, let alone study for my exams. I spent most of the days I was supposed to be studying, in court. It was 10.30 at night when I got my hall ticket for the exam which was to happen the next day. I didn’t sleep a wink that night,” she says.
Those were difficult times — the unending travels to the High Court; the long hours of waiting in the premises to be called; the uncertainty — but in the end it was all worth it.