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A transgender resource centre now favourite stop for scholars, students in Tamil Nadu

Priya Babu said the centre is currently mentoring a couple of Ph.D. scholars by helping them with research materials and other related help
Last Updated : 21 December 2022, 21:26 IST
Last Updated : 21 December 2022, 21:26 IST
Last Updated : 21 December 2022, 21:26 IST
Last Updated : 21 December 2022, 21:26 IST

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The silence in the hall is broken by the ringtone of a mobile phone. The caller, who is a Ph.D. scholar from Coimbatore engaged in research on the transgender community, wanted to know when she could visit the library.

“You are welcome, anytime,” was the reply.

The research scholar was enquiring about the Transgender Resource Centre established in 2016 in this temple town. The library, which can be accessed without any fee, boasts of a rich collection of Tamil and English books tracing the journey of the transgender community in India and elsewhere.

Run by Priya Babu, a transwoman herself who suffered physical and sexual abuse for years together in Mumbai before she returned to her home state of Tamil Nadu, the library’s shelves now adore over 200 books penned by members of the community and other authors, periodicals, research papers published by universities, and over 10,000 newspaper clippings.

Priya Babu told DH that she hit upon the idea of a resource centre to ensure that people who suffer with gender identity issues don’t end up as dropouts just like her.

“It started with me collecting newspaper clippings on achievements and sufferings of my community. And slowly, we built a centre with an exclusive library aimed at telling the community that succeeding against all odds is difficult, but not impossible,” she said.

Providing access to books written by transgender persons who have made successful careers in various fields, the activist said, has served as an encouragement to those who suffer with gender issues to continue their studies or job without any guilt.

The centre has now transformed into a favourite destination for students, especially Ph.D. scholars, who like to read or research about the community. Of late, students of psychology, social work, and other related departments from various colleges in and around Madurai have also begun knocking at the doors of the resource centre for internships.

“I am very happy that the resource centre is flooded with students and scholars on most days. We receive people from across Tamiol Nadu and neighbouring states at our centre to access the wide range of collections we have on the transgender community. When students do internships with us, they get educated about trans people and it helps us in a big way,” the activist said.

Priya Babu said the centre is currently mentoring a couple of Ph.D. scholars by helping them with research materials and other related help. “At times, we help doctorate students choose topics for research as well,” she added.

The centre has also signed MoUs with several institutions to create awareness about the transgender community and help people who question their gender.

“The awareness among students about gender issues has increased now and we have so far identified 23 students who were thinking to quit studies due to their gender change. I am peer counselling them now. We will provide necessary assistance to such people to ensure that they complete their studies,” she added.

Besides the library, Priya Babu also brings out a monthly online magazine, Trans News, and runs a YouTube channel and a film company with exclusive content on and for the community. The resource centre will also produce a film Ariagandi on the lives of transgender persons.

While the magazine provides tips to trans men and trans women and chronicles achievers within the community, the channel broadcasts videos that explain the history of the transgender community and references to them in age-old Tamil literature.

“We are encouraged by the response from members of the community and students. But we encounter issues in finding resources to fund our projects, including the library. People should come forward in investing in ventures like the one we run which creates a deep impact in the society,” Priya Babu said.

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Published 21 December 2022, 16:49 IST

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