Our true reality is in our identity – J.Campbell
Imagine – People shy away when they see you. You are only talked about in hushed tones, some call you out with lewd names. Your whole life you have been branded as a social outcast. An entire society, that otherwise makes a ‘hue and cry’ about progressive India, suddenly looks right past you. Your presence is never acknowledged, not deemed important enough. Facing constant ridicule you wonder, what is it that is so different about you? You laugh like them, love like them, feel glad at a compliment like them yet you seem to have no place amongst them.Why are you so different? Have the morals of society failed you, their hypocrisy beaming in all its glory. What is it about you that invites the eerie gazes, the abuse and trauma. All you crave is a nod, a wave, just a response, any sign to signal the end of the ordeal. You just want to live your life, experience its highs and lows like everybody else. The truth is, you subsist only on the periphery of the society’s self-fuelled reality, existing only for them to bemoan you. There is not much you can do except swallow this bitter truth. For it is how it has been and how it will be, after all they all have a certain fondness for the ‘chalta hai, apne ko kya’ attitude. You have been denied the right to lead a ‘normal’ life. It’s not your choice to make.
Pause and wonder, what it like is to be rejected by society. This is just a peek into the nightmarish existence that we have subjected the trans genders to accept as their reality, that too for no fault of theirs. Transgenders have borne the brunt of the expression of our archaic mindset. Seldom have we realized how our seemingly innocent actions ostracize an entire community.
Identity, more so in particular gender associated identity, is a topic that almost flies under the radar for it is not something we give a second thought too. For some however, it is the bane of their entire existence.
Transgenders do not identify with their assigned gender at birth and disown their biological sex. A sizeable portion of our population today is striving for the right to self determine gender and is fighting to be recognized, to have the liberty to live their life without the shame and staring eyeballs. Sadly,Acceptance into the mainstream is still a distant dream.
The transgender community has historically faced discrimination within society. Often ignored, they are kept away from the society.
Ideally, the manner of living should be a very personal choice, but transgenders do not figure in this grant of liberty. Transgenders, oddly with regard to their position today, have always been a part of the Indian setup. Yet somehow, they have failed to find an equal standing. They are still looked down upon and made the butt of jokes. Their only crime is their sense of self, which is in defiance to what society seems to have laid out.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. A change in perception is slowly but surely taking place and reforms are underway. It seems like all is not lost just yet.
On April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgement, National Legal Service Authority v Union of India, for the third gender. Prior to this they had to conform to either being male or female. The Supreme Court recognized transgenders as a third gender and granted them freedom and rights, extending the benefits of reservation to them. A person now had the right to determine and express one’s gender. The Court clearly laid down that they are as much the citizens of this country as all of us. To put that into perspective, acting otherwise could put you in contempt of the highest court of the land yet we hear of incidents like the one in Chennai, where frustrated with the inadequacy of the government a group of transgender people approached the Tamil Nadu government to rid them of their misery, through a plea for mercy killing, proving once again that the transgender community needs not just legal acceptance but societal as well.
Ever since the judgment, there has been movement in the right direction as far as the fight for an equal society is concerned. Acceptance and recognition is still hard to come by for, it is not something words on paper can implement; it has to come from within us all. It will come when we will fight the demons of our archaic mindset and become understanding towards all members of society. It is a change that will never occur unless we don’t effectively hack away at the roots of this evil.
Society needs to come together and become one. There certainly have been encouraging signs of late and slowly a revolution is taking place that will result in a more accepting India; An India that truly reflects the ideals of the land of Gandhi.
The Supreme Court judgment offered an eye opening insight to the conditions of transgenders but then again, we are the ones who have been meting out this kind of treatment so ignorance is not a plea we can claim.
“Despite constitutional guarantee of equality, Hijras/transgender persons have been facing extreme discrimination in all spheres of the society. Non-recognition of the identity of Hijras/transgender persons denies them equal protection of law, thereby leaving them extremely vulnerable to harassment, violence and sexual assault in public spaces, at home and in jail, also by the police. Sexual assault, including molestation, rape, forced anal and oral sex, gang rape and stripping is being committed with impunity and there are reliable statistics and materials to support such activities. Further, non-recognition of identity of Hijras /transgender persons results in them facing extreme discrimination in all spheres of society, especially in the field of employment, education, healthcare”
(An excerpt from the judgment)
Gender, constitutes the essential of one’s sense of being and thus, legal recognition of gender is a part of the freedom guaranteed under our Constitution. Indian Law, for the majority of its existence has only recognized two genders, based on a person’s sex assigned at birth. This has excluded an entire community denying them legal rights to marriage, inheritance, and welfare, to only name few. This absence of legislation has led them to be subject to discrimination. Some sort of action needs to be taken to remedy this wrong. Self-identified genders can be either male or female or a third gender but human rights should exist irrespective of gender and should be granted, not only by the legal system but more importantly, by the social system within which we live.
There is little acceptance for transgenders and their problems start at a very young age. At a time when they are still going through a process of exploring themselves and their identity, trying to come to terms with their reality, they are shunned and ignored by their own family members. Effectively excluded from leading a normal, social, and cultural life, they have almost little or no access to education and those that do have to face the fear of being ridiculed at every instance. Involvement in political life is still only a distant dream for in their reality even access to health care and public spaces is often not possible. Almost always associated with transgenders are reports of harassment, violence, denial of services, and unfair treatment. They often never receive the benefits of various welfare schemes because they have no valid proof of identity like a passport or driving license to even register their existence in the eyes of the law(this is one area the judgment has made a real impact, proofs of identity are now being issued with the third gender option). With almost little or no education and a severe lack of job opportunities, most turn to prostitution, animal-esque survival. They are already the most vulnerable group and we just seem to drive the nail further and further inside the coffin they call life.
There needs to be a total destruction of this sexist outlook and a liberal outlook must be fostered to promote equality with regard to gender identity. They are not any different to you and I then why should they be subject to a different set of rules. The wheels are already in motion it seems and everyday transgender seem to be scripting success stories.
Madhu Kinnarhas become the first ever transgender mayor of Raigarh.
Manabi Bandopadhyay has become the first-ever transgender person to be made principal of Krishnanagar Women’s College in West Bengal.
K Prithika Yashini has become the first transgender woman to join the police force in Tamil Nadu
A Delhi based LGBT charity,Mitr Trust is planning to launch India’s first Transgender Model Agency.
The successful stories of transition and acceptance of Nainasingh (formerly Krishna Singh a 16 year old student) and Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan (formerly Ratikanta Pradhan a Commercial Tax Officer in Odisha)
The government has even begun the process of issuing identity cards and passports with the third gender category
A cab hailing service, called ‘Wings Rainbow’, has been conceptualized that will be driven by gay men and transgenders
However a lot needs to be done, starting with the The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016. While a similar private member bill (introduced by MP Tiruchi Siva) had been earlier passed by the Rajya Sabha( the first private member bill to pass in more than 40 years), the present legislation is that of the ruling government and it certainly has its problems. The most troubling problem is that the Bill completely rules out the option of self identification as either male or female or other.
According to the the bill “a transgender person is one who is:
(a) neither wholly female nor wholly male; or
(b) a combination of female or male or
(c) neither female not male.”
In line with this baffling definition, it will become mandatory for all those seeking to apply for the transgender category to go through a screening process on the basis of which they will be provided a certificate of identity.
There are some groundbreaking provisions as well which will undoubtedly work towards removing this bias. The bill criminalizes any act of discrimination towards the transgenders with imprisonment between 6 months to 2 yearsalong with a fine. It assures the transgenders of a right to residence and the setting up of a National Council for Transgender Persons, while ensuring that the government will take adequate measures to ensure the full inclusion and participation of transgender persons in society.A step though has been taken in the right direction.
An entire community has borne the brunt of our unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, and this needs to stop.We need to embrace our sexual minorities, treat them as equals and give them the rightful respect they deserve.It is important for us as a society to become sensitive to this issue and come out in support. The need of the hour is to include them into the mainstream society. Steadily we are inching towards it, but a lot needs to be done before equality for all becomes a reality. Promoting a positive social image will be a major step in rooting out trans phobia. It’s time we see them for who they are, humans and rightful citizens of this country just like the rest of us. We need to ensure that we are the ones who bring about the change our society so desperately needs.The fundamental of our ideology should be human dignity and recognition of individuality.
Borrowing from the famous lines of Robert Frost – in this journey of transgender rights and equality wehave promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep, miles to go before we sleep.