“Let’s go this way”, said Neelam, a transgender. We walked down the narrow road, which was flanked by garbage on both sides, and entered a hut; mud walls, thatched roof, partitioned by a cloth to accumulate two families. For an outsider, it’s hard to even imagine that the area is inhabited unless one enters it. This is a not a remote or isolated place, but is located in the heart of a town which is famous for its Jagannath temple and cultural heritage. The transgender communityÂ has been conveniently neglected for years by politicians, sarkari babus and even the neighbours. The area is socially untouchable to the extent that you are bound to be stared at if you are coming out of any of those huts. But there live world’s most friendly people I have ever met, who demand nothing more than their rights. Their demands are, the right to be accepted as a part of the society, to be eligible for social entitlements, against discrimination, and most importantly to be recognized as human beings. In other words, their demand is not for special status rather only for equal status.
The decision of the Indian Supreme Court came as a ray of hope. After a long battle, the transgenders are recognized as citizens, and as human beings. But the question of the moment is;Â is SC’s decision enough to bring them into the mainstream society?Â Man is a social animal and therefore social acceptance is as important as legal acceptance. This is the space where a judicial institution cannot interfere. We need to play our part to prove that we are civilized enough to accept people irrespective of their gender identity.
Unless the mud hut is seen as a house, unless inhabitants there are ceased to be victims of social untouchability, and unless we give them their place as individuals, the situation will not change much. In our country, we accept Shikhandi as an important character of The Mahabharata, but we lack the heart to give the third gender a position in the society. It is sad but true that we are accustomed to live in fiction more than in reality. The need of the hour is to remove the double standards, and have absolute coordination between our thoughts and deeds. Hence it’s our turn to start our journey from just a human being to being human.