The transgender community are prone to discrimination and stigmatisation in our conservative society. Our constitution acknowledges all people as equal under the law. But unfortunately, the reality is quite different.
"Previously, people used to run away when they saw us. Today, they are the ones who wait in line to get our services and I believe that is my greatest achievement," says Shammi, a transgender woman who opened her own beauty salon, Uttoron, in 2017 in Ashulia. Since then, she never had to look back. "Now, when I walk down the street, people look at me with respect," she adds.
Many people in the transgender community have followed Shammi's path, finding respectable jobs for themselves.
Shammi was born in Dhamrai as Samiul Alim. The government has officially given the transgender community the right to vote and as per voter ID regulation, the birth certificate's name must be followed. Subsequently, Shammi had to use her birth name to earn her voting rights.
At fifteen, Shammi left her family and her home. "Because of me, my family members had to suffer a lot and I wanted to stop their suffering," says Shammi. Even after so many years, Shammi's loved ones have not yet accepted her as a part of their family. Although she was invited to her brother's wedding reception, she was not allowed to sit with the other guests.
As Shammi was passionate about accessorising and dressing up from a young age, she decided to start a career in the beauty and fashion industry. She went to India to receiving training under renowned hair stylist Jawed Habib's centre. Shammi's Uttoron now has branches in Dhamrai, Savar, Brahmanbaria and Manikganj. The salon is sponsored by a police officer.
After the success of her salon, Shammi opened a training centre in 2018, with an aim to train others from the transgender community, free of cost. Shammi shares, "When we opened the salon, everyone was scared and superstitious about us. They didn't know about us and refused to take our services at first." As days went by, people gradually started accepting them and the business boomed.
Shammi runs the salon's Ashulia branch, along with her three fellow trangender women, and two local employees. "We want to include more people from outside our community. I wanted to prove that we can all work and live together peacefully," she says. Shammi is also a liaison officer at Bandhu, a social welfare organisation. "The society refuses to give us chances and we are often labelled as criminals or outcasts. All we want and need is the opportunity to do something that we are good at," she adds. Shammi plans to expand her training centre to help out more people like her in the years ahead.