While travelling in a local train in Maharashtra, I saw people making faces to show utter disgust after a transperson came near us looking for a seat. The worst moment was when a lady sitting across us covered her son’s face with her left hand saying, “Beta, yeh gandey log hotey hai. Inkey taraf kabhi mat dekhna,” she uttered. I did not know why she termed that person as “bad”, I was too small at that time to understand the difference between them and us. My mother pinched me upon my stare, and I looked out of the window of the train. It was 2008, and the words still play like a tape recorder in my mind. It hurts because it is up to God to put a human body into different categories of the group we call “Gender.”
The word transgender person or transperson is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth. The modern definition of transgender person came into use in the late 20th century. But the people who fit under this definition have existed in every culture recorded throughout history. Indian culture teaches us to respect every gender and those older to us, then why can’t we adopt this practice for the trans people and see them as equal? While travelling by train, we often come across transwomen who would come to bless us. Our society accepts that a transwoman’s blessing is heavenly, then why can’t we accept them as equals in our society. We get their blessings and in turn, punish them by abandoning them and classifying them as a shame to our society.
We always hear the news about rape and how unsafe India is becoming for women, but we do not realize that it is equally unsafe for transwomen too. While thinking about writing on this sensitive issue, I came across an article which reported an incident of the rape of an Indian transgender woman. It took her more than four years to seek justice, “India sees a furore every time there’s a rape case, but not for me–I wasn’t born a woman,” said Khushi. She adds, “When a transgender woman gets raped in this country, cops first mock her, saying she doesn’t have the organs to be sexually assaulted; and what follows is a barrage of injustices—perhaps greater than the first one.”
It is a matter of concern that transwomen stay in a society which not only abandons them but also rapes them. They cry their hearts out, but ears turn deaf towards their concerns and pain. Tranpersons keep on asking for acceptance, for help, for respect, but the pain in their hearts and their feelings are ignored. Fear and chill run through my veins as I read such heartbreaking articles. The pain they bear, the harassment they have to go through, the tears which hurt them constantly and the constant ringing of the words, “Why has God created us like this and punished us?” The truth is that God did not punish them, we did. God just made them slightly different from others, and we are having a hard time overcoming our biases.
The government measures towards the transpersons are changing the mentality of people and giving them opportunities to showcase their talent. Joyita Mondal is the first transwomen to be the judge of a Lok Adalat and a social worker from West Bengal. Just like Joyita, many transpersons are doing well in their particular field of interest. And just like us, they deserve equal opportunities to showcase their talent. It’s time we stopped looking away from them and start accepting accept them with open hands and heart.
Generally, it is seen that in our country, discrimination cuts across religion, region and gender. Reports show heavily ingrained prejudice that often forces transpersons to run away from their homes in their teens, or they are thrown out by their families. They are to assimilate in a community that has refused to provide them with education or jobs; they often turn to beg on the streets or prostitution.
Personal hygiene of a ‘normal’ person is being promoted in our country, but not that of transpersons. Due to this, when they are out of their houses for hours, they need to control their bladders, which leads to increased chances of serious infection. Some trans people avoid going out at all just for the same reason. They fall ill and go through some major life-risking diseases which are not being cured at a faster rate, at least for them. Being abandoned is hurtful, but more hurtful are innocent trans lives that come to an end due to a lack of proper hygiene.
Even with discrimination, lack of affirmative action and poor understanding of culture, the government has checked some boxes to improve their lives. They should further work towards steps to improve this sensitive scenario. India is a democratic country, but transpersons have been discriminated. They respect every individual and help people in trouble, but are we doing the same for them? I think they are a blessing in disguise for our Indian culture. If we can ask them to bless us, then can’t we respect them equally as a part of our community? If more people stay happily together in a society, the more happy and healthy our country will be.