Having the distinction of being India’s first trans woman to helm a COVID-19 vaccination centre is a bittersweet achievement for Dr Aqsa Shaikh. “It’s a sad summary of affairs that in India, where trans people find it difficult to survive, it’s an achievement if you can pass through schools, get into college, get a degree and then become a doctor,” she says.
Apart from being the nodal officer of the COVID-19 vaccination centre at Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (HIMSR), Shaikh dons many hats — she is a researcher, a community medicine specialist, an associate professor at Jamia Hamdard and the founder of Humanity Solidarity Foundation.
“A simple representation of a person of a community can bring a lot of sensitization and change,” Shaikh remarks about the barriers preventing marginalized people from entering the medical field. She believes that in order to bring change in the system, they need to be in the system. She strongly advocates for medical curriculum, policies and protocols to become more trans affirmative. It all begins with a mindset change, she says, “so that the next time a trans person walks into a clinic or hospital for a simple fever or a cough, they don’t have to think about self medicating instead of visiting a transphobic doctor or nurse.”
(Interviewed by Sherina Poyyail; Produced by Manasi Phadnis and edited by Dhruv Sharma)