Transman Sanjeev finds a career at Bagel Pot

Rennee (M) and Sanjeev (R) at The Bagel Pot in Ambattur.

Chennai: The modern world has started to understand the plight of the transgender community.

Today, people who are neither male nor female have a voice. They can get placed in jobs and the judiciary is keen to help them out whenever possibilities arise.

Even though transwomen are getting openings in career, it is not the same with transmen (thirunambigal).

That is exactly what Sanjeev faced at his home in Courtallam, before he left his parents’ place in search of an identity. He did not have a sister, and by default, played with boys all his childhood.

He dressed up and behaved like a male, which was not an issue for his kith and kin, that is until he hit puberty.

“There were days, I intended to commit suicide since my relatives criticised me for behaving like a boy,” says Sanjeev.

Sanjeev knew what he wanted and went ahead with surgery, taking help from Sahayathrika, a Kerala-based organisation catering to lesbian/bisexual women and transgender persons. Again, he battled to get it done.

“I got placed in private banks, however, they denied me an opportunity for they failed to recognise the gender I deserved to be enrolled in. I went through a hard phase and wanted a career change,” says the 21-year-old.

As a transman, getting a job was not easy for him. Hunting for several weeks proved futile. Sahayathrika referred PerriFerry in Chennai to start a career and he trained for three months on skills and got recruited by The Bagel Pot, a restaurant in Ambattur, as an outlet manager.

However, Sanjeev is not alone as he was just not offered a job like any other workplace. Along with him are a few others from his community who went through similar ordeals and cherish the kind of dignified work and respect they are blessed with.

News Today traces the restaurant and speaks to Rennee, co-founder of The Bagel Pot, to know more.

“I always believed community should be a part of growth. Since I decided it to be a social entrepreneurship firm, I was thinking of ways to employ people who do not get enough opportunities in society. It is easy to go to a hotel management institute, interview and recruit, but I chose not to tread the easy route. We wanted to bring transpeople into our circle and a random Google search led me to PerriFerry, which is run by my college friend Neelam,” shares Rennee.

But when you visit the restaurant, you can see them doing their role with great glee and mirth. Not an employee can be spotted fussing and fuming about the kind of work they are given.

When asked how she created an amicable work space for her co-workers, Rennee adds, “I do not follow the pyramid structure of boss-manager-employee hierarchy, but rather we share the work. We work in a circle of union. In that way, I make the co-workers feel and believe everybody is equal and the differences are the unique aspect of every individual.”

It is six months since The Bagel Pot was started and Rennee says there has not been negative reception towards employing transpeople.

“Our customers are happy to see transpeople in a workplace that has even led to changing perspectives about them. They are slowly coming to terms with the community and realise that they deserve a good life as much as anyone else does,” adds Rennee.

CUT ABOVE REST
The fact that sets the restaurant above others is that it does not have a professional in-house chef. The menu is curated by Rennee and the dishes are prepared right from scratch by her co-workers. Rennee dons the role of chief chef and trains others in dishing out the recipes.

“Within the first weeks of starting the restaurant, much-acclaimed chef Venkatesh Bhatt dropped by after hearing about us which itself is an honour,” she shares.

 

Bhavani Prabhakar