The system finally recognizes transgender as a community in 2013. If the system decides to change itself, we have to acknowledge that society itself is undergoing a change. As noticed in far too many instances, the system will only change when society itself asks for it to change.
With the advent of a third category for transgender in the Aadhar card form, the government is following in the footsteps of many institutions which have already taken the road to much needed acceptance. 19,447 transgenders have already secured their right to the card which the government had previously deemed compulsory to gain essential services.
The Tamil Nadu government was the first to begin an advanced thought process needed to bring about change for one of the most marginalized communities in India. A trailblazer of sorts, in 2008, they announced the constitution of a welfare board for transgender. The Bangalore and Karnataka governments announced a separate category for transgender in admission forms for colleges and schools.
And while calling reality shows a stage for raising awareness may be taking it too far, we do need to acknowledge that they have managed to bring awareness regarding a subject which has been ignored and has had stigma attached with it. In 2012, channel V aired an episode on its chat show ‘My Big Decision’ which featured transgender and transsexuals from middle class families openly making their voice heard. Big Boss (yes, even if it was just for the TRPs) and Star Vijay, which aired a chat show with Rose, a transgender as the host, have at least helped initiate the process of a change in mindsets by gaining access to the second biggest media platform in the country.
To begin change for a community that has since long been mocked and not granted rights is a big step in itself. How have we managed to come this far without granting their rights and continually ostracizing a 1 million strong community? While we may seem to progressing forward, but the facts remain. In India, if they regularly face sexual assault and physical violence by the police themselves, what would we expect from the public? The government has not yet fully addressed the educational rights of transgenders.
We can see this most blatantly in government colleges, including the country’s best known and reputed DU, there is no third gender category in the application forms. Without being granted even primary education rights, sex work is what many are left with. What hampers the addition of one more option in the gender category in application forms despite the fact that in Indian history, the community has always been recognized? Why treat an entire community, an entire gender as not there at all? It is sitting right in front of our eyes, waiting to be talked about and created a stir about, but never has it been. The rightful demand to categorize themselves as the gender they were born with is unfulfilled.
Swapna, a transgender who wished to take the civil services exam was denied the right to become an IAS because she was not a woman or a man. An above average student of Tamil studies, she had to discontinue her BCA due to the problems she faced. Armed with intelligence and capability, she would’ve realized her dream but for the unnatural policy that restricts her from doing so. . How does her gender inhibit her from being a great civil servant and serving the nation?
The least bit of interaction, with who we Indians term as hijras, for most of us have been only the refusal to give money to the person begging outside our car window. Have we ever tried to wonder why this perfectly healthy and able person has been shunned by society so much so that they have to resort to begging? Begging and sex work is all that we know about this community, isn’t this so. The community is associated with sex work vehemently. Around 17.5 to 41 percent of the trans-population suffers from AIDS which is more than fifty times higher than the general Indian adult population.
However acceptance only comes with acknowledgement. As many of us term transgenders, transsexual and anyone who is neither male nor female as a ‘hijra’, there is a dire need for awareness to be raised on this topic. We’ve accepted and brought about a much needed revolution for the LGB part of LGBT, but the T part is undoubtedly still far behind. Mainstream jobs, voting, marriage, inheriting property or the right to adopt a child are all things that most do not even count as a blessing and dismiss as present quite unconditionally in our lives. For the third gender however, it would be a privilege. In 1994, transgender persons gained the rights to vote. However, with the ‘male or female’ question posing a severe problem, the voter ID cards were not issued and the granting of civil rights remained stuck in limbo. And while in 2005, they were given a separate category in passports, terming it as ‘E’ for Eunuch, the central government unwittingly used a term as derogatory to the community as the stereotypes attached.
Yes there is change, but enough so? A few instances are all we come across. Where do we as individuals come in? Recognizing that there’s no difference between ‘them’ and ‘us’. Understanding what sexual minorities go through is the first step, too many blogs, too many books and too many organizations are trying to spread their awareness about this tabooed topic. First easy step, banishing the stereotypical image of transgenders from our heads, clapping hands and dancing at weddings isn’t their identity.
Badlaav for a community that shouldn’t have been marginalized in the first place, this far from perfect country should not ignore this injustice for much longer. The transgender community’s place in the country isn’t a red light or prostitution districts; it’s the desk right adjacent to you in school or college or the workplace getting the same rights as we do.