Last month the dead body of a person was found in her home in a water drum filled with salt and covered with a cloth. That was the body of Sangeetha; a body that was different from others and hence worth killing and abolishing from the face of our society which prides itself in its culture and normality. It was the body of a transgender woman. Sangeetha was an empowering transgender woman who ran a community kitchen that employed a dozen other transgender persons. She did this during the COVID-19 lockdown when the transgender community was left on its own.
The murder of Sangeetha is not an exception. Hundreds of transgender persons are killed every year across the world – their crime being that they do not follow the societal ‘norms’.
Every year, November 20 is commemorated as the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honour the memory of the Transgender Persons who lost their lives in anti-transgender violence. This Transgender Day of Remembrance as we pay homage to the lives lost to senseless violence, let us also learn how to be an ally to Trans people.
Learn About Gender: Violence stems from deep-rooted hatred. And often, the cause of this hatred is ignorance or preconceived misconceptions. So, start by reading and learning about gender and about the lives of transgender persons. Find out how they are just like other people and how they are not mentally ill or diseased. And worthy of living.
Make A Transgender Friend And Be Visible With Them: A lot of bias can be shed when you make a friendship or relationship with a transgender person. You can start with an online friendship and then take it offline as you navigate your discomforts and biases. While you may have seen photos of transgender people most would be seen with other trans persons or other queer people. Take pictures with trans persons if they consent to it and post it on your social media timeline. Talk about it. Normalize it.
Use The Right Pronouns: When having communications with or about transgender persons be mindful of using the right pronouns. What is the right pronoun? The one they wish to use. Trans people use a variety of pronouns and even multiple pronouns – he/she/they (singular)/Ze and so on. Make sure you do not assume but ask.
Normalise Cis-Trans Relationships: Take it a notch higher and make Trans persons part of your life. Start a relationship with a Trans person. Adopt or become the guardian of a transgender child. Trans people are not just for other trans people. If you find inter-faith, inter-caste, and inter-racial marriages beautiful then you will understand why cisgender-transgender marriages are so vital for true acceptance.
Pass The Mic: Quite often when issues related to trans persons are taken up, the people speaking are cisgender persons. It’s important that being an ally you pass the mic to the trans persons and allow their voices to be heard.
Amplify Trans Voices: Like any other minority, the voice of an oppressed and marginalized minority community cannot reach the masses unless it’s also amplified by the allies. So, shed your inhibitions and share trans voices as much you can. What is not talked about is also not addressed. Maybe start by sharing this article with your friends, family, or children and start a conversation.
Know The Law: India enacted The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 and Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules 2020. This came after the Supreme Court’s revolutionary NALSA Judgment affirming trans rights. While the legislation for trans and intersex persons is problematic it still offers bits and pieces of protections that need to be held on to. As an ally, read and learn about these so that discrimination against transgender persons at educational, employment, or healthcare places can be mitigated.
Employ Trans People: While many trans people are as qualified and talented as other people they are forced to go for traditional and often undignified and unsafe professions like begging or sex work given lack of employment opportunities. If you are privileged then start employing transgender people and create a safe work environment for them.
Fund Transgender Endeavors: In today’s world we do understand that monetary resource is very vital for the sustenance of any cause. Transgender causes are no different. If you are someone who donates to causes consider a transgender cause next time. Make contributions to trans causes a norm for Corporate Social Responsibility spending.
Knockdown Biases: While you learn to become a trans ally, be mindful of the immense diversity amongst the transgender community. We have trans people of colour, Muslim transgender folk, Trans persons with disabilities, and so on. Amongst the transgender community, we have various sects like the Hijra or Kinnar community. Learn about them and knockdown your inner biases one at a time.
We hope for a world where people are either transgender or transgender allies and never transphobic. We hope for a world where Transgender Day of Remembrance becomes redundant as no trans person loses their life for being born this way. Will you join us in making this possible?