15th April 2014 will perhaps go down in history as one of those days that changed the course of societal hierarchies and forced them to make way for a class of citizens, who have never been recognized for their true selves. On this day, the Supreme Court of the country created a ‘third gender’ status for transgenders, commonly calledÂ ‘hijras’. While earlier they were forced to choose between male or female while filing out the gender section in the necessary forms, the transgender community now has their own box to tick.
We are all privy to the pathetic condition of the transgender community, yet we chose not to take action. We shun them, despise them or pity them, but we never hold them in equal esteem. Part of it stems from the fear of the unknown – the term third gender has been not quite drilled into our skulls when we study our eleventh standard biology books and even if it has, we are too squeamish to recognize it as a completely natural phenomenon that occurs across the expanse of the entire animal kingdom. A major part of it stems from the fact that these individuals are associated with a stigma that reeks of discrimination of the worst order. So, instead of questioning and uprooting this ancient, decadent and absolutely revolting belief, we choose to follow it blindly like the sheep that followed every word that Napoleon the pig uttered in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
The Supreme Court’s verdict is like the much needed rain in a region that has been drought ridden for eons. But is it enough?
If the whole situation is looked upon as a war for the transgender to be recognized truly and without any qualms whatsoever, this is just the first battle won in a long drawn war that will possibly stretch over generations.
Looking at the verdict, many will beg to disagree. Most people I have talked to about this particular issue, tell me that the Supreme Court’s verdict of granting them the third gender status along with placing them among the Schedule Caste (SC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) is more than enough. They have lamented the fact that these hijras will further eat into their chances of securing a job or admission in their preferred universities.
“That’s what we precisely needed. These ‘chhakkas’ will be eating into our chances. First there was Arjun Singh with his reservation bill and now these hijras will be given special preference over us.”
“Maybe I should get a sex change operation done too, now that these eunuchs will be accorded a special status.”
That last quote was obviously sarcastic. This quote also sheds light on the fight for the transgender community and in turn, the entire LGBTQIA community that has been tirelessly working towards being accepted in a hostile, narrow minded society. Sissyphus, our Greek friend who rolled a stone uphill only to watch it roll downhill near the summit, had it easier than our friends of the transgender community and the ‘rainbow people’, as the LGBTQIA like to call themselves.
What most of us so called normal (sic!) people fail to comprehend is that even the reservation and recognition of the transgender community will not culminate directly into their upliftment till they are accepted as an equal part of our society.
Activist Rohan Noronha, who has been fighting for this cause in his own way for over a decade, has quite the cynical take on it -Â “Reservation and recognition sounds good on paper, but what about those people who have been shunned from the society to the extent of not having a proper education or skill set? Most of the transgender community do not possess the luxury of formal education or even prior work experience, so I really don’t see how they are going to land up jobs. The Government has to do more, set up comprehensive programmes so that the members of the transgender community actually develop a skill set so that they can actually become capable of holding jobs just like the other members of the society. If this isn’t done, then I’m afraid that transgenders will be stuck at traffic signals and railway coaches in the day and as sex workers at night, always remaining among the dregs of the society.”
“Quo Vadis?” or “Whither goest thou” is the question in the minds of the transgender community on how to proceed after this landmark judgement. For the journey of a thousand miles for them has begun, but how they traverse the rest is going to determine the future of the community – bright or bleak.