Exploring her sexuality
She wanted to go outside India to get out of the restrictive environment. To an extent the presence of article 370 was also a concern. Samyukta was able to see how normal things could be for a person of different sexuality when she went to Europe in 2012 on work and had a gay manager. This example in front of her boosted Samyuktha’s confidence to speak about herself. She says,“He was married to his gay partner and had adopted children. It was an entirely new world for me. I started opening up, expressing myself and identifying with my sexuality. I always knew I was a girl and was able to communicate my feelings without holding back.”
The support from Amazon
When she was working in the United States with Amazon, she had a wonderful support group of trans women at the workplace, and was able to fit in without a struggle. She saw examples of trans women who had successfully completed the journey of finding themselves. Samyukta says,“At Amazon where I was working, I got to see more and more members of the LGBTQ family. They were loved for who they were without being judged. Everyone was very warm and welcoming.” In it she saw an opportunity to seek support of these women and Amazon to undertake her journey as well.
She was able to afford her hormone replacement therapy in 2016 and sex reassignment surgery in 2017 all thanks to the great human resource and insurance policies at Amazon. Samyukta acknowledges the support she received from Amazon both in terms of insurance coverage etc., and great HR policies . The fact that a company had a transition template on how colleagues where to support the trans people was a great boon. She says,“The HR policies were clear about how to deal and interact with transgender people. And how to address or behave with them once the transition was over. I was amazed to see that the company had a transition template. I couldn’t have asked for more,” says Samyuktha.
Unconditional family support
Samyukta always acknowledges that coming from a relatively well to do family and having a professional education really helped her avoid a lot of unpleasant situations which other Indians from the LGBTQ+ community had to face. Her foreign stint and exposure to life altering experiences also played a great role in being able to be true to herself. She also credits her family for being progressive, never clipping her wings and giving her unconditional support in this journey.
She says with great joy, “After my transformation, when I first went home to attend my brother’s wedding, my biggest gift was my mother introducing me to the guests saying ‘meet my daughter Samyuktha’. Since, my mother was so unequivocal in my support no relative could ever dare to question me or make me uncomfortable”
Giving back to Trans community
Abolition of article 370 made her feel that atmosphere is now less stiffling and there are many more options for the LGBTQ+ community than when she started working. During her various visits to India Samyukta felt that India is more accepting than before however, the situation for the trans community back in India was far from ideal. She then decided to quit her job with Amazon and return to India, to help her community lead better lives.
Via Toute studio
In early 2018, when Samyukta returned to India she married her concern for the environment and her desire to give back. She used her excellent designing skills to source Indian handloom fabrics, skilled transwomen to work on these fabrics to create stunning wedding couture. The difference you ask? Well, unlike other designers she doesn’t intend for her creations to be bought but on the other hand wants people to rent them so that cloth going to landfills in the name of fashion can be reduced. A la “Rent The Runway ” kinds.
The business model has its inherent challenges and Samyukta knows it very well. Samyukta says, “The concept is quite unheard of in India, and that many Indians would be hesitant to wear something that someone else has worn before, but I want to change mindsets through Toute Studio and plan to make Toute Studio branch out into various verticals so that I can help members of LGBTQ+ without formal degrees to eke out a career for themselves.” Toute Studio was previously operational in Bangalore however due to high costs involved she is currently accepting orders for Toute Studio through word of mouth as it’s under the process of reorganization. Her parents are helping her house a physical studio where Samyukta’s creations come to life in their hometown of Coimbatore as well.
At her current workplace : Swiggy
Samyukta is a very valued employee at Swiggy. She has been made a part of “Women in Tech group” along with Diversity and Inclusion(D&I) Council. She is currently working with the team to have an in-house LGBTQ+ support group and a community as well. Also she is working on a framework for an internship or a training program so that those who do not have traditional degrees or qualifications can be absorbed in the IT and ITES industry.
Samyukta is a fine example that every one would love to have as a sibling or as a friend. She is fun to be with, is sensitive, polite, patient and very knowledgeable. With varied interests such as Bharatnatyam, writing etc., she is showing how trans women can be exemplary citizens. It was a pleasure to interact with her and I hope many other Samyuktas get support to get wings and reach their potential.