Down the ages, transgenders have been looked down upon and ill-treated by society. They have undergone torture, faced rejection, humiliation, and suffered in isolation. However, things seem to be changing slowly. “Nature chooses who will be transgender. Individuals don’t,” says Sayantan Ghosh emphatically, adding, “We live in such a brutal society where transgenders are not accepted as human beings nor treated as equals. Transgender is mainly a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with his/ her birth sex.”
Ghosh, better known as Megh Sayantan Ghosh, is the first transgender lawyer to have won a case at Alipore Judges Court, Kolkata, in February 2018. She was fighting for the enrollment of transgender category at Bar Council and has received many awards for her efforts. She is also a professional dancer and runs a dance troupe called Rudrapolash — the first transgender dance group in West Bengal.
Born in Sonarpur, Ghosh was a regular boy while growing up and completed schooling and passed Secondary and Higher Secondary Examination with first division from Jadavpur Vidyapith, Kolkata. “From the very first day of my school, I was not treated like other students because I was effeminate in my mannerisms and the way I spoke, walked or even behaved. I used to dress up like a girl and applied by mother’s makeup. I loved kajal and lipstick. My classmates and seniors used to mock at me and started calling me ‘hijra’, ‘meyeli’, ‘gay’ etc” adds Ghosh.
Ghosh was attracted to same sex when she was in Std VII. Talking about her harrowing experiences as a transgender teenager, she recalls, “I got sexually harassed by my own school seniors in Std VIII and none of them got any punishment from the school authorities because some of the faculty members were also involved. Later, they made fun of that incident which shattered me.”
Ghosh joined Hazra Law College in 2006 and completed BA LLB with first class in 2011. Within one year, she joined Alipore Judges Court as civil and matrimonial lawyer. She became a laughing stock for her colleagues within the court premises, but she didn’t give up and continued to pursue her profession as a lawyer.
She got her first case in 2017 and won it in February 2018 and became the first transgender lawyer in India to win a case. Sharing her thoughts on the recent laws made in favour of transgenders, she says, “Being a transgender is a birthright, it’s not just an identity. Meaning of my name Megh is ‘clouds’ and clouds are free and can’t be confined, it has no gender. Acceptance is still needed in this society and there are many transgenders who have failed to overcome the situation. I want to help them in every possible way,” says Ghosh.
National Legal Services Authority v Union of India is a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of India, which declared transgender people to be a ‘third gender’, affirming that the Fundamental Rights granted under the Constitution of India will be equally applicable to transgender people, and gives them the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third gender. “This judgement is a major step towards gender equality in India. Moreover, the court also held that because transgender people were treated as socially and economically backward classes, they will be granted reservations in admissions to educational institutions and jobs,” she says.
Ghosh, who has also been creating awareness about the community through dance, is working on a dance drama based on a story of Rabindranath Tagore and will also showcase dance pieces based on the Mahabharata and Nabadurga (nine forms of Goddess Durga). When asked what does she expect from society, she firmly says, “We don’t need any sympathy, we need empathy and acceptance from the mainstream society.”