One can’t help but notice them; leaning on traffic signals, outside railways stations and bus stands or just storming into a celebration. Faces shining with a heavy layer of makeup, bodies clad in saris, tight-fitting salwar kameez, shimmering bangles on their hairy arms, overly-padded boldly thrust-out chests and glossy lips. They decorate themselves in order to be noticed /visible after dark. Yes, they are the sex workers who take position in shadowy lanes in every major city in India. And how do we greet them? We laugh at them, yell at them, ridicule and insult them. We refuse to understand the pain behind their sensual smile.
The Supreme Court in 2014 recognized transgender as the third gender and guaranteed them equal opportunity to grow and attain their full potential. Despite receiving such constitutional safeguards, we still watch them beg on roads. They are still denied entry to certain places, exploited for sex and shunned from the mainstream lifestyle. It is true that the third gender is creating their identity with a few of them securing higher education, government jobs and even joining the media. It is commendable to see transgender individuals join the civil service and turn into entrepreneurs. However, these cases are just exceptions. The haunting reality is that most of them continue to struggle in poverty and remain as victims to society’s ostracism. Trans-people face the violation of their right to life, with common occurrences of unreported and unregistered hate crimes. They are neglected with poor access to health and medical care, and many of them are pathologised as having ‘gender identity disorder’ due to inaction by the Medical Council of India. This makes us wonder if the landmark judgment by the court on transgenderism had any effect on their status.
So who are transgenders exactly? Are they men who wear women’s clothes or women who feel like men from inside? In definition, transgender is an umbrella term to describe people whose gender identity or expression does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. The community includes males and females and goes beyond these gender normative identities. Science proves that these transgender children are born as hermaphrodites and this has been a common occurrence since the beginning of mankind. The society has classified itself into the male and female gender, but we cannot ignore that evolution has led to the creation of the 3rd gender that has been around for as long as the other two.
All transgender people have a background story. While growing up they feel trapped in their body, as they enter their teens, their weirdness alarms their family- Why do you walk like this? Why do you act like this? Everything in the society is clearly demarcated as male and female. Baffled by the abnormal behaviour of a transgender child, most parents punish them brutally. This alienation drives them away from home to seek a sense of belonging in the world of eunuchs. These people are called ‘chakka’, ‘hijda’ etc. Many transgender people face petty hassles on an everyday basis. While travelling in a local train, should they travel in ladies or gents compartment? Hence, they feel outcasted. Even though they have money to shop, they are not allowed to enter malls or shopping centres. They find access barred to temples, workplaces, movie theatres and even hospitals. Such treatment is barred by law, but do we really fear or follow the law in India?
Many transgender people suffer from various diseases and die due to improper treatment. They mostly enter into a relationship with men but suffer betrayal as they cannot bear kids. Even if they want to adopt a child, they have to wait much longer than most couples. Today, if the transgender community in India leads a pitiable life, who is to be blamed? We as a community are at fault. We refuse to accept them as equals and disrespect them. They are assaulted at education institutions. They are ill-treated and withheld from proving their capabilities at workplaces. They are forbidden from availing opportunities due to majority domination. As a result, they are forced to enter the field of sex work or beggary to make their ends meet. Can you name an engineer, architect, charted accountant, scientist or sportsperson who is a transgender? This shows that we as a community have failed to uphold the dignity of humanity.
We should actively include and embrace transgender people in the society by introducing gender diversity in the educational curriculum at the school level. We need to create tolerance and awareness among the public so that the transgender community can live a life with self-esteem, have a family, work in corporate, government, private sectors and go to regular schools. They should be able to live like men and women, like you and me. Acknowledgement of transgender people as a third sex is not a social or biological issue but rather a human issue.
Picture Credits : foodandnutrition.org