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The Life Of A Trans Person: Why Is Inclusivity An ‘Abnormal Concept’ For Us?

TW: Sexual assault, body dysmorphia. 

We all binge-watch various web series on different OTT platforms, like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hotstar, and more, and these series showcase various social issues from our day-to-day life. We feel connected to these social issues and may also feel thoughtful while watching these seasons, but rarely we take actionable lessons from them.

How many of us have watched Paatal Lok? Most, right? Yes, it was worth watching. The series really opened up about many social issues. But the question is how many of us have given a thought about them?

In this article, we will discuss a gender-based issue that we observed in Paatal Lok.

The Life Of A Transgender Person

The revelation of Cheeni being a transgender was a total eye-opener for us. For the first three episodes, Cheeni was portrayed as a North-Eastern girl who was left by her uncle in Bhramaputra Mail, which departs from Dibrugarh (Assam) to Delhi, she since then lived in the Nation’s Capital and engaged in petty work for survival.

While in the locker room, when another inmate, who happened to be a sex worker, assaulted and abused Cheeni for her ethnicity and calling her a ‘Nepali prostitute’, the sex worker gets hold of Cheeni’s genitals and realized that she is not a woman but a transgender woman, she, in shock, got away from Cheeni and started to shout out for the prison in charge.

Image Source: Paatal Lok (Amazon Prime)

Finding Cheeni ‘unsuitable’ to be kept in the female ward, she was shifted to the male prison. The male prison presented her with even tougher times, her entry created an uncomfortable scene for her when other male inmates gazed at her lustfully. More agonizing was the scene when she had to bathe with male prisoners and one of the male prisoners started masturbating by looking into her eyes while she bathed.

These two incidents press on the issue that the transgender people should neither be put in the male or a female cell. There is a need for a separate jail for the transgender community.

If this issue would have been an issue of any binary sex, voices would have been raised immediately as it is more relatable to us, but when it’s about the trans community who are still deprived of their basic rights, most people don’t even accept them as a part of society then how can we think about raising a collective voice for them.

We Indians believe in the concept of “Unity in diversity” and we are beautiful together with different cultures, caste, and religions. Then why can’t we accept trans people in our society, they are also human creations like us. So why is this an abnormal concept for most of us? Do you ever think about that, or question WHY?

It’s not the fault of individuals but the society. People don’t even believe that there can be another gender apart from ‘males’ and ‘females’.

People, do not understand that sex and gender are two different terms. Sex is characterized by reproductive organs and gender is characterized by what an individual thinks about themselves. The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment, NALSA V. Union of India (2014) said that “the gender to which a person belongs is to be determined by the person concerned.”

Representational image.

Transgender people are human beings created by humans only. As we accept a girl or a boy as a baby (they are having biological differences too) we should accept transgender people as well. They are not a problem, they are like us, and as beautiful as all of us. Our mindset has deprived them of the opportunities to build their own identity and forced them to choose a separate profession and community. We need to accept them and create an inclusive space for them in society.

Even after transgender people have been recognized by the supreme court, still, apart from Kerala, no other state has introduced separate prisons for them.

Why is it being delayed? Is it because of the insensitivity of the government towards the LGBTQIA+ community, or they don’t even consider it as a problem? Very few political parties have discussed this issue.

So, we must make it a mass movement and support groups who are already working on this issue to pressurize the government to act on it as soon as possible.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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