Transgender: The Third Gender?

Posted by prachi wankhede
August 23, 2017


The human body since times immemorial has been divided into binaries of male and female. Any deviation from this binary is termed as queer and seen fit to be marginalized and stigmatized. This non conformity to the assigned gender puts the queer community at the forefront of social ridicule. In the face of such realities, comes a judgement that is seen as a ray of hope by the transgender community. The famous NALSA judgement recognized the right of the transgender community to self identify as male, female, or the third gender. It was a welcome move because the community which has long been sitting on the fence of the society was finally given legal recognition. This legal recognition was the first step towards them being the citizens of this country without compromising on their identity. The judgement was based on the moral principles of human rights which are inalienable and are necessary to attain full citizenship status. However the judgement by recognizing the term third gender has also raised questions as to how we perceive the gender question. The notion of ranking the genders , begs our attention as to what are the first and second genders? If this is the ranking then it reeks of a hierarchy which tells us that one gender is superior to the other. The hierarchy is a representation of the power relations operating in the society. These power relations define our understanding of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. The whole idea of defining the gender based on the natural sex is an attempt to promote and propagate heterosexuality and procreation. Anything that is unambiguous and not in line with this idea is penalized and stigmatized. This urge of the society to exercise control over people’s sexuality results in marginalization of the people who have identities and sexuality alternate to the set norms of the society. The transgender community is also excluded on the same lines because our understanding of their sexuality and bodies is limited by our prejudices and notions. The community by being on the periphery of the society seeks its inclusion within the society as full citizens by engaging with the most visible forms of state, that is the law. The problem with engaging with the law is that, it is somehow removed from the existent social realities and is therefore, inadequate with dealing what lies there within. The law if embedded in the social structures tends to define a problem on the same lines and is therefore ineffective in bringing about the change. A society like India which has various forms of inequalities deeply cutting through it, will always throw up these problematic notions like the “third gender”. It is not that the idea of law engaging with issues of the social is not welcome. Law can very well be the vehicle of change and reform, however it must be prudent enough to acknowledge its shortcomings as well as make an effort to engage with the various social actors to effect a change from within.

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