US prez Donald Trump recently announced his decision to ban transgender individuals from joining the army. That got us thinking: how accepting is India of the third gender? Let’s find out what fellow millennials think.
What Does Transgender Mean?
A trans man is a man (who was assigned female at birth) and a trans woman is a woman (who was assigned male at birth). The gender assigned to them at birth does not match later on.
Eunuch, transgender, transsexual, transvestite – these terms are often wrongly used interchangeably.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill defines transgender as a person who is “neither wholly male nor female; or a combination of male and female.”
Being a Trans Woman in India is Hard
Indian women have to deal with immense gender discrimination and sexual harassment everyday. In the case of trans women, things are way worse.
Take the case of Manabi Bandyopadhyay, India’s first transgender college principal. Soon after her tenure began, she faced non-cooperation from her colleagues.
When the legal notices and mental agitation became too much to bear, she resigned.
However, since her story garnered national attention, there was an official investigation and most of the allegations against her were proved baseless.
She took her job back and was even greeted warmly by her students. While nobody said it outright, wasn’t her gender the primary cause for this ordeal?
Still, she has been luckier than most in her community. Employment opportunities are so hard to come by – most trans women resort to illegal occupations like sex work or begging.
Owing to the vulnerability in their line of work and their ostracisation from society, they face far more abuse and violence than the average cisgender woman.
The Trans Man is Largely Ignored
When you think transgender, you generally picture a transgender woman, right? That’s because trans men are so few in number that they are far more marginalised.
Evid Adi, founder of Facebook support group The Indian Transman, agrees,“Trans men in India are a minority within a minority. Of the overall umbrella of LGBTQIA, the T is mostly misunderstood to be standing only for trans women and the existence of trans men is usually ignored.”
This also poses a huge risk to their safety, as trans men in India have been “beaten up in public and disowned by family.”
“Without a bigger support group, most trans men feel unsafe and hence the community is under cover till now,” he says. (via Quora)
Transphobia in India
Last year, our government made it legal for the third gender to access public restrooms as per the gender they identify with.
However, as a society, we have a long way to go in this regard and we’re still largely transphobic.
US-based transgender student Leena*, who has also lived in India for many years, shares her experience.
She says, “Both USA and India are quite transphobic. While we see some good steps that move the latter forward, we still face immense forms of discrimination.
People still refuse to accept us, leading a lot of us to run away from home and beg to survive.
If anything, I wouldn’t be as comfortable being openly transgender in India as I would in the US, but that’s also because I live in an extremely progressive state.”
The Silver Lining
Amidst all the judgment, hate, and violence, there is a silver lining after all.
Earlier this year, Vicks surprised everyone with a tasteful advert on transgender activist Gauri Sawant’s story as an adoptive mother.
In August, we had India’s very first transgender beauty pageant in Delhi.
There’s Transgender India, an online community and news website for transgender people.
Also, more transgender folks are going down in history as pioneers. There’s Naina Singh, a teen who came out at her school. Then there’s Padmini Prakash, India’s first transgender TV anchor, Esther Bharathi, India’s first transgender pastor, and so on.
The community now has more visibility, and that should eventually lead to more understanding and acceptance.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below.
*name changed for privacy
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