Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju
Image: Sunny Chothani
Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju did not get the support she needed during her high school and early college years to process her thoughts around her gender dysphoria.
“At that time, there weren’t a lot of people around me that understood me, especially when I was living in a boys’ hostel and didn’t have support systems in place to reach out to when needed,” says Gummaraju, who underwent gender confirmation surgery (GCS) in 2019.
With no access to therapy, Gummaraju decided to document her transformational journey on social media as an outlet to cope with her thoughts.
“The internet was the only space where I got to be myself in any way, shape or form, whether it was writing a large paragraph about my relationship with my body or being able to put on the slightest bit of makeup,” she says. “I realised that it was incredibly liberating because in that space, no one could really tell you who to be and how to be.”
Gummaraju, who graduated from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, in March, became one of the first Indians to raise the curtain on the challenges she had to face with her medical, legal and social transitions—even the simpler aspects of it—on YouTube and Instagram.
“Being able to get a piercing, for example, or being able to wear slightly different clothing, these things would become very difficult in a space like a medical school,” she reveals.
Through her own life experiences, she brought awareness about the struggles of finding trans-affirming doctors in India and grasping the significance of subjects around gender, queerphobia, bullying, and mental health.
Being transparent about her life on the internet organically grew into an empowering educational platform for many people, highlighting key LGBTQ issues from which other queer and trans-kids could draw information.
Gummaraju has 351,000 followers on Instagram and 15,200 subscribers on her YouTube channel ‘The Trinetra Method’.
Mrinil Mathur Rajwani, founder and editor at Social Ketchup, and managing partner at Social Samosa Network, believes it is Gummaraju being her authentic self that connects with people.
“The same is making her seen as a human first, and not judging her by the gender,” says Rajwani. “And that’s a big win for the LGBT+ community. By being true to herself and to her audience on her social media platforms, she is giving confidence to the LGBT+ community to come forward and live their lives freely.”Also see: Digital Stars 2023 List
Gummaraju’s followers have witnessed a human experience marked with multitude of transitions, from pursuing medical school to becoming Karnataka’s first openly transgender doctor, and now actor, gracing the screen with her debut performance in the romantic drama web series Made in Heaven
. All while being a steadfast advocate for LGBTQ issues, particularly about medical misinformation about trans-people and trans-representation in media, the Hindi film industry and in entertainment.
“I think it’s so important for people to educate themselves, not necessarily from Wikipedia pages, but from the real lived experiences of people from this community,” says Gummaraju.
As she steps into the world of acting and storytelling, Gummaraju is learning to get more comfortable in her own skin in this new chapter of her life.
“Stepping into this world was very intimidating, to be surrounded by some of the most conventionally attractive women in the country,” says Gummaraju. “It was deeply, deeply dysphoria-inducing, and it took me a while to actively start dissociating from those standards and to do things that I wanted to do.”
While this trailblazing content creator did reveal a lot of what goes on behind the LGBT+ community in India, Rajwani believes her character on the show “is a testimony to the fact that in the same country, if you want to achieve big, there is no stopping you”.
Also read: Aakanksha Monga: Breaking the taboo of solo travel for Indian women
“The best thing about her Made In Heaven
role is that she took her journey from the feed to the show and beautifully portrayed it,” says Rajwani. “Making its reach to a larger audience and normalising it in all possible ways.”
Even though Gummaraju will continue to create content to push further queer and trans rights, as an actor she hopes to play characters that don’t limit her to gender and activism that only talk about queer.
“I want to be able to play a cop, perhaps a dirty cop. I want to be able to play a spy or a criminal,” she says. “I think that itself will go to show the world that trans actors are also actors. And we are willing and driven to get better at what we do just like anybody else.”
(This story appears in the 03 November, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)