How Manipur’s EC Made History By Recognising That Trans Women Are Women

Posted by Shweta Raj Kanwar in Cake, LGBTQ
April 5, 2017

The elections in Manipur may have been tiring for a lot of people in the state. While some have been surprised by the ascent of BJP, others had already anticipated this.

Amidst all the anxiety surrounding the elections and its results, one person has silently created a revolution. She has been celebrating the victory of womanhood, while also having played the important role of a voter in these elections.

Nandeibam Sandeep Singh, popularly known as Sandra Serto Nandeibam, voted for the first time in the state elections from Yaiskul Kendra (Constituency), Manipur. Sandra had just turned 18, then, and, like any other first-time voter, was very excited about casting her vote to elect the next chief minister (CM) of Manipur.

Sandra Serto Nandeibam (Coutesy: Sandra Serto Nandeibam)

What sets her apart from the others is the fact that while she identifies as trans, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has recognised her as a woman voter, rather than putting her under the ‘other’ category. This is probably one of the very few instances in Manipur, where a trans person has been recognized as a woman by the ECI, without any complications.

On March 4, 2017, when Manipur went into the first phase of elections, an ecstatic Sandra was seen expressing herself:

“It was my first voting experienced as I have completed 18 years now. While I was applying for a voter’s card, the officials had recognised me as female. This is what I wish to be, despite being born a male. Still, I have to assert the name given at birth, though I am popularly known as Sandra Nandeibam. One’s name does not define one’s gender. I may be called Tomba, Chaoba, Chaobi, Thoiba, Thoibi or anything else. I still love my name dearly, because it was given to me by my beloved parents and my teachers.

I had a dilemma whether to stand in the women’s queue, even though the officials of ECI and I identify myself as a female or as trans-woman. However, I stood in the women’s queue, fearlessly and with pride and self respect. It felt as though I was reborn when I was accepted as a woman officially, socially, emotionally and biologically.

Lets stop transphobia and implement Supreme Court’s NALSA judgement recognizing all transgenders as males, females or as members of a third gender in the state of Manipur.”

Documents certifying Sandra as a female

Manipur has seen a lot of talent recently, and some influential names that have brought laurels to the state belong to the trans community. Bishesh Huirem, the Manipuri artist who represented India in Thailand in the Miss International Queen contest, 2017, and Santa Khurai, an activist who is actively fighting against transphobia through her NGO named All Manipur Nupi Manbi Association, are cases in point. Sandra Nandeibam herself is the first model from the trans community in Manipur to grace the ramp at Garnier Fashion Weekend.

Trans people have always played a significant role, even in the shaping of India’s history. Yet, as we have progressed through the ages, we have never accepted this community as one of us. Transphobia is not natural – it is a stigma that has led to narrow-mindedness and discrimination in our society.

Just like apartheid, transphobia has already segregated a significant population without any fault of theirs. While Sandra may be at the centre of a revolution against transphobia in Manipur, it’s high time we spread this change that she has brought about.

The author can be found here.