ransgenders are no strangers to society. The concept of not feeling comfortable in one’s birth-assigned gender has been around since man can remember. It’s quite puzzling to see that many centuries later; people still treat transgenders like an alien. These people are regular people who do not deserve the amount of discrimination directed towards them as they get right now.
Transgender Inequality in Society
Transgender individuals face discrimination within their own family units and schools, in employment and housing, within government settings, through hate crimes, and under the justice and legal systems. From a young age, children are often brought up in heteronormative settings within their own homes and in school. Transgender individuals do suffer from higher incidences of mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and suicidality often stemming from the social implications of being transgender in a cisnormative society.
The problems faced by the transgenders :
- These people are shunned by family and society alike.
- They have restricted access to education, health services and public spaces.
- Till recently, they were excluded from effectively participating in social and cultural life.
- Politics and decision-making processes have been out of their reach.
- Transgender people have difficulty in exercising their basic civil rights.
- Reports of harassment, violence, denial of services, and unfair treatment against transgender persons have come to light.
- Sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is criminalized, and is punishable by incarceration.
Transgender in India
This is the harsh reality for many Trans people in India. But the fact we often ignore or don’t even realize is that directly or indirectly, we, as a society, are responsible for their condition. Being disowned by their own families and harsh treatments from other people in society leads to their so called ‘bad’ behavior. Lack of access to education and non-availability of jobs often forces them to take to begging and prostitution.
In India, transgender people include hijras/ kinnars (eunuchs), shiv-shaktis, jogappas, Sakhi, jogtas, Aradhis etc. In fact, there are many who do not belong to any of the groups but are transgender persons individually. Transgenders fall under the LGBT group (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). They constitute the marginalized section of the society in India, and thus face legal, social as well as economic difficulties.
Journey from Marginal to Mainstream
Within the Third Gender population, one can come across many stories of grit and determination where a transgender did not allow societal pressure decide their fate. Here, are a few exceptional examples of transgender individuals who have written their own success stories with the help of their endowment, hard work, dedication and perseverance:
Kalki Subramaniam: With two masters’ degrees, Kalki is a social activist and a journalist. She also made her debut as an actress in the movie Narthaki-Life of a Transgender Woman. Kali has also founded the Sahodari foundation which supports the transgender community.
Padmini Prakash: Padmini is a trained Kathak dancer and also a vocal artist. She was awarded the title of Miss Transgender of India. Padmini acts in TV serials and is a popular face on a news channel.
Madhu Bai Kinnar: Madhu was disowned by her parents and expelled from home. However, destiny had other things in store for her. She became the first citizen of Raigarh in Chattisgarh. She earns her living as a folk dance performer.
Again disowned by parents, Bharathi had a tough life after being ostracised by the society. But sheer will power and grit saw her change the course of her life. She baptized to Christianity, completed a bachelor’s degree in Theology, and today she is a pastor at the Evangelist church of India, and conducts weddings.
Manabi Bandyopadhyay: Manabi is the author of a bestseller novel, Endless Bondage, based on hijras (eunuchs). She is an associate professor in Bengali at Vivekananda Satobarshiki Mahavidyalaya and is soon slated to take charge as the principal of Krishnanagar Women’s College.
Common Myths about Transgenders
1. Every Transgender Person Is a Hijra.
This is far from the truth. Most people in India don’t realize is that the hijra community is a socio-cultural community comprising of transgender people who may belong to India and even a few neighbouring countries. They have their own set of rules and customs, and only a transgender person who accepts to become a part of this community can only be called a Hijra. Thus, every transgender person is not a Hijra.
2. Trans People Are Incapable Of Doing Significant Jobs
While many Trans people have been successful in breaking the prejudice surrounding them. In several parts of India, people still believe in stereotypes and refuse to give jobs to Trans people. A well-educated transgender Indian is as capable and deserving to be posted on significant jobs as any other cisgender Indian.
3. Being The Parent Of A Transgender Child Is Shameful.
This is one of the most common prejudices present in society because of which people disown their own children to suffer alone in this world – it’s heartbreaking!
Parents who see their children through the eyes of society often don’t realize that to be progressive, a society needs to evolve and necessary changes need to be made with time as we learn new things. It is our responsibility to make it better, more inclusive and progressive by ushering in the necessary changes.
4. Transgender Women Can Never Become Mothers.
Most people in India argue that a Trans woman can’t be considered a mother because they can’t give birth to babies. Denying someone the respect to be called mother, just because they can’t give birth to a child is totally inhumane.
One of the sacred texts in Hinduism too says that motherhood has nothing to do with any particular gender. The only thing that matters is a heart filled with love for children.
“ya devi sarvabhuteshu matri-roopein sansthita
namastasyai, namastasyai ,namastasyai namo namah
(To that divine goddess/divine energy, who abides in all living beings as mother, Salutations, salutations, salutations to thee, again and again)”
5. Being Transgender Is a Choice.
No, it has already been proved that being transgender is not a choice. It’s because of ignorance or lack of awareness regarding trans people in society that some people still think that being transgender is a choice. They are unaware of the psychological trauma a transgender person goes through every day.
A famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi is quite apt on the struggles of Trans people in Indian society –
“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you and then you win.”