Meet Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, The Affirming Trans Power We Needed

In an interview with SheThePeople, Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju talks about her growing-up years, what drove her to pursue medicine, her gender-reaffirming journey, the big acting debut, and the changes she wishes to see when it comes to Trans rights.

Bhana Bisht
19 Sep 2023 Updated On Sep 23, 2023 17:23 IST

Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju

When the news around Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju becoming the first known Trans doctor of Karnataka came out, people from across the country were positively interested in the story. It meant three things - change, acceptance and the fact that Trinetra (named after a fierce goddess Kaali) was the trailblazer we didn’t know we needed. Today, she is an accomplished doctor and, thanks to Made In Heaven, an artist to watch out for.


Watching a member of the LGBTQIA+ community righteously representing the tribe on screen (a move that was a long time coming) was empowering in more ways than one. It, therefore, becomes even more important to dive deeper into the journey that got her here. 

In an interview with SheThePeople, Dr Trinetra talks about her growing-up years, what drove her to pursue medicine, her gender-reaffirming journey, how her family backed her amidst it all, the big acting debut, and the changes she wishes to see and is working towards when it comes to Trans rights.

Excerpts from the Interview 


You’re one of the most significant voices for the Trans community in India. Looking back, how challenging a journey was it to get here considering you grew up in an environment which was not accepting of change?

I grew up in a very middle-class home, where my parents often struggled to make ends meet. Financial security came much later, closer to the time I became financially independent. We grew up very aspirational, constantly surrounded by kids with lots more privilege. As a young kid who was academically driven while also very flamboyant and an easy target, I’d struggle to fit in until I couldn’t anymore. Medical school, one would assume is safer, given that doctors serve every walk of life, but that wasn’t the case.

As the first trans doctor in Karnataka, it was evident that the university space had miles to go before becoming an accepting space. There were transphobic professors and students alike, apart of course from the course itself which contained queerphobic material. No queer student should ever have to read that they’re a pervert. In addition, there was no hostel accommodation available to me at the time, leading me to file a PIL. 


At what age did you realise that people around you were not okay with who you were? 

Roughly, at age four, the awareness hit me that my wearing my mother’s clothes, makeup and jewellery was frowned upon. It started with neighbours but eventually showed up as bullying in school. 

You were born as Angad Gummaraju and eventually decided to go for gender-affirming surgery in your early 20s. How was your family’s support through it all?


I came out to my family at roughly age 13-14 when I didn’t really know words like “gender incongruence” or “trans”. I just knew I liked boys, and said so to my mother during an argument wherein she was poking fun at a famous queer individual. It took them a good 5 years to come to terms with having a queer child, and by the time I came out as trans, they were far more supportive. My father, for one, the same person who tried very hard to masculinise me was the one to take care of me post-surgery, which happened at age 21.

When did you decide to pursue medicine? Did the environment around make it easy for you to fit in at a time you were transitioning?

I was in the 10th grade when I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but it was only toward the end of medical school - my third year - that I realised I needed to transition. While I may have had a much harder time elsewhere, college didn’t make it easier. Medical textbooks had highly queerphobic language, particularly in the Forensics and Gynaecology spheres. It was much later thanks to Justice Anand Venkatesh that orders were passed to the National Medical Commission to remove these texts. Some queerphobic professors made transitioning particularly hard. I was denied girls’ hostel post transitioning and changing my documents, and eventually had to file a PIL, which continues to be in court. I am however grateful for the handful of professors that were supportive. 


You had your big debut in season 2 of Made In Heaven, where you played Meher Chaudhary - a Trans woman - in the show. Was acting always on the list?

Acting was never part of the plan, it was perhaps a distant dream, the way living my womanhood was. I would admire and aspire to the grace of actresses I’d watch, but as with most Indian kids outside the industry, I didn’t know there was so much as a remote possibility of it happening.

By the time I transitioned, I was already in my final year of medical school and my career was headed in that direction until the audition came along. I did it with no expectations whatsoever and when it did work out, it was an absolute dream come true. To be the representation I needed growing up is a rare privilege and honour. Through my character and her experiences, we both see the humanity and the oppression a trans person lives every day. 


trinetra made in heaven

As a Transwoman living a life on your terms, what inspires you to keep going?

One factor - seeing trans women succeed and thrive. Be it Laverne Cox, MJ Rodriquez or Gazal Dhaliwal, the visibility was so important to me.


The stigma around gender dysphoria is still at its peak in major sections of society. Is there anything you have to say to the naysayers, who do not comprehend the challenges anyone dealing with a transition around gender identity goes through?

I’d only say, stick to the science. Science says that gender incongruence - not a mental disorder according to the World Health Organisation - is best managed by allowing the said individual to live in the gender identity and expression that feels most comfortable.

Whether or not someone accepts being trans, at least have the scientific temperament to look up the research, and see what all leading health organisations agree upon - the fact that trans people have existed since time immemorial and gender affirmation can be life-saving. It was for me. 

Gender-affirming surgeries were associated with a 42% reduction in psychological distress and a 44% reduction in suicidal ideation when compared with transgender and gender-diverse people who had not had gender-affirming surgery but wanted it, according to the findings of research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study also found a 35% reduction in tobacco smoking among people who had gender-affirming surgeries. 

You’re one of the first openly transgender Indian content creators, who made it to the list of the renowned “The Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia List 2022" for her exceptional personality and endeavours. What would you advise kids and adults who face challenges like you did?

It’d be hard to give overarching advice given that we all come from such diverse walks of life. No two trans people are the same or have the same journey. I would however like to put out there that anything that the human mind can conceive, is possible.

I didn’t in my wildest dreams imagine that I’d get to live my truth as a woman, let alone become a doctor or an actor. One just needs a bit of a push, a bit of support, and bucketloads of courage. All of the things a cis person can achieve, a trans person can too. We deserve all the respect, joy, love and appreciation our cis counterparts do.

Suggested reading: Owning My Narrative: Ektara Maheshwari, Woman Of Trans Experience

#Transgender women #Trans Representation #Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju #Dr Trinetra