By Daya Uppal:
I used the same roads everyday. I stopped at the same red lights everyday. I saw the same transgenders begging for food and money everyday. And I looked the other way, just as I was taught to do, everyday.
Except the day I didn’t.
Always gazing through the glass window between me and the transgenders on the street, a thousand questions would run through my mind. I would wonder why these young, healthy, active individuals were begging on the streets when they could just as easily be doing something productive – something more suited to their abilities.
So one day, impulsively, I decided to get my answers. I rolled down the car window and handed a fifty rupee note to one of them. She gave me blessings and before she moved on to the next car to carry on with the same task, I quickly asked ‘Why don’t you work instead?’. She just sort of mock-laughed and gave me a look that answered all my questions.
As my driver sped the car away (he was afraid of ‘such people’), I thought to myself about all the superstitions and taboos regarding the transgender community that exist in our society. Even though now our Supreme Court has legally recognized the transgender community, and has called upon the government for their equal treatment, discrimination against the transgender people is ingrained in people’s minds. They are economically and socially marginalised. They are not even treated as humans. This is precisely the reason why a majority of them end up on the streets, reduced to the status of beggars, and are forced to earn their living working as entertainers or prostitutes. A community of three million people in India isn’t even given a fighting chance to live a dignified life.
Transgenders suffer social ostracization. It’s an issue we create and the one that we can, together, fight against. Our society needs to know that trangenders aren’t people to be afraid of, or people to be looked down upon. Therefore, inspired by the Palestinian scarves that were born at a time of national conflict, I created a scarf to raise awareness about the issue of gender discrimination in India. The words on my scarf represent the 58 named genders that fall on the gender spectrum. Every person who wears this scarf highlights this cause of gender based discrimination, and promotes the ideal that all 58 genders should be allowed to exist with equal dignity and have the freedom to express themselves in any way they please.
My scarf stresses the need for all genders to be granted basic human rights – dignity and equality. I’ve sold 450 of these scarves in my hometown – Delhi, and the transgender hub of our nation, Calcutta, with the aim of making people aware, and helping them move past the regressive notions they hold which ultimately lead to gender based discrimination.