Socialisation is the process by which a child evolves into a social being through various institutions. The primary source of socialisation for
a child is its family. Our values, beliefs and thoughts are thus depended upon what our family teaches us. However, as we grow older and come into contact with other sources such as technology, school or our peer group, our belief system further gets modified. Therefore, the type of ideas and thoughts that are kept in front of us as a child, become a large part of our personalities when we grow older.
Even though most agents of socialisation may claim to teach children humility and encourage them to perform acts of kindness, I have felt that we often forget to teach our kids how to treat people who are a little different from the society’s definition of ‘normal’. In India, a very few households talk about topics that are considered taboo. Therefore, most transgenders end up feeling confused and cisgenders being scared of them. For me, the term gay or lesbian meant an insult while transgenders were someone who would come to dance on happy occasions and had the power to curse or bless people. This is the perception of the LGBTQ+ community that most people in India have.
It is funny how we fail to treat a person who belongs to the ‘other community’ as a human being, but readily give them a status of someone bigger than the humankind itself! For example, the dalits were referred to as ‘Harijans’, women are sometimes equated to the goddess ‘Lakshmi’ and a trans person as someone who has ‘magical powers’. My problem with this is that even though it may have started to ‘uplift’ these groups, however, in the process we have forgotten to treat them as human beings first. We are violent towards this community mentally, physically and make their life a living hell, if they try to express themselves.
Even those of us who are not physically or verbally violent; do not treat them at par with the rest of the community. We push them onto the peripheries and judge them not by their intellect or the type of person they are, but based on their sexual orientation or the gender they identify with. This further leads to the alienation of the group and this alienation starts at an early age. We all remember a kid from our class who always sat alone and had no friends because they seemed ‘weird’ to us. Obviously, this does not mean that the kid was from the LGBTQ community, but it is proof that from the very beginning we have isolated people who didn’t seem ‘normal’ to us.
I have met some people who are against the idea of an LGBTQ+ community. To them, I say that a sense of identity is a basic human need. Time and again the human race has formed categories and stuck with the groups that they identify with. Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Black, White, Dalit are all identities, and our actions and thoughts are a part of our identity. When we throw a category out of a particular community, we cannot stop them from making their own identity group.
My journey to sensitisation towards this community started because of my curiosity towards the group. I had questions about gender and sex, about transgenders and who they really are. With these questions, I went to the adults in my life. When I did not get any satisfactory response, I made this internet my best friend. I have been blessed to be born in the day and age where I can gather any type of information that I want to. I decided to learn about the LGBTQ+ community. I read articles, tried to study biological and psychological aspects, watched videos made for and by the community and read about the Koovagam festival in Tamil Nadu.
To all my readers, if you don’t know about Koovagam, please watch a documentary or read about it. It’s fascinating! My moment of being a supporter of the group came when I addressed a transwoman on the street as ‘Didi’. Her face lightened up just by a single word, and I knew her day was made. Her lit up face helped me to further make an effort to break my age-old beliefs and views and be more sensitive towards the LGBTQ+ community.
I agree that getting rid of ages of socialization is not easy. However, we must not stop questioning things. The day we stop questioning the system, our culture and its institutions; it will be the end of our democracy. Simple efforts make a difference. Start by using the right pronouns for the transgender. It is indeed that easy! Even if you do not understand the LGBTQ+ community, just remember that it is essential to understand that everyone has the right to express themselves the way they want to and love who they want to.