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Why Has Indian Society “Othered” Transgender Identity?

Claps” as we all are familiar with, are sometimes perceived as unsavory. Many times, claps depict contentment, euphoria, optimism, and so on but at times; it also symbolizes the deprivation, isolation, agony, the dim and blurry voice of transgender people. ‘Hijras, Kinnar, Chhakka, etc’ are prevalent terms that society uses for transgenders and they have been identified as more of a “sexual gender” in the eyes of mankind.

They have been considered an “undignified” and “voluptuous” gender who rely only upon the sexual activities at large for their survival. The appearance and sound of clapping are judged, create the basis of discrimination, and subjugate their identity. There are different categories within the sex workers, For instance: Nochi (Young female trainee under a tawaif), Low-class uncultured tawaif, Tawaif (A sophisticated, elegant, and cultured worker), and many more.

(Photo by Amal KS/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Transgender people have had to fight for their rights for years, and they still are not able to enjoy their basic rights.

On that account, we must know what is identity? Who defines the identity of transgender? What are the parameters for measuring the identity? So, identity is something that defines your personality, not your character, identity is something which specifies your ‘abilities’, not your morality, identity is concerned about the presence of courage, it does not rely only on arbitrary action. Furthermore, the identity could be visible in any form depends on the way of seeing.

It is true in many senses that the identity of transgender is being constructed by the people of a society based on their work and it defines a certain amount of disparity towards them. The struggling story of transgender is not hidden to any one of us; they have been fighting for many years for their inherent rights and their political identities in which they have yet to succeed. The propagation of construction of identities of transgender based on fabricated perception does not recognize their character as a whole. The comprehensive nature of the exploitative world makes them feel that they have no right to live, nor to enjoy their basic rights.

The existence of transgender identity fades amid the cultural and moral practice of society. The classification of the method of earning money seems the reason for acceptance or discrediting the human identity. Moreover, the transgender identity connects to their sexuality, probably because they have to do sex work to earn money. Hence, in that case, we cannot justify that based on the constructed identity, sexuality is created, or based on sexuality, identity is being built.

The position of transgender in our society is confined only to a sex object which is used only for enjoyment purposes. Traditional blessings ceremonies, selling bodies, or begging are the major source of income, we hardly see any transgender in any other position apart from this. An ostracized group that is seen as a source of entertainment. They are stigmatized for their work on the other side, it is also a matter of fact that society doesn’t want to accept transgender to be a part of a reputed community because they thought they could harm their social norms and values.

The paradoxical nature of society is responsible for damaging the identity of transgender in many ways. The heterosexual communities, who criticize transgenders more, take maximum advantage out of them. The diplomatic behavior of patriarchy seems when men take pleasure in sex in all possible ways but to appear as civilized, their approach towards transgender must be negative or condemning.  The identity of transgender becomes a subject to be discussed but we don’t even think how difficult it would be to live that identity their whole life.

It needs a lot of courage to survive like this. Of course, they do it as a matter of job but we have no right to judge them, to exploit them, to make fun of them. We have to stand for the right thing and raise our voice against wrong. The question to be raised here is who creates the feeling of exclusive or otherness? Definitely society and socio-economic factors are also responsible to defame or dishonor the identity of transgender.

The community of transgenders should not be considered inferior for their jobs. Men who perpetrate that crime should be more responsible to be punished. The lives of transgender are filled with pain, disgrace, or disrespect. As birds need the sky to fly, people need respect to live. Their painful sound of clapping that is unclear to us, the shore of tolerance, the everyday mocking expression of the people, considering them the object of shame, have become an intrinsic meaning of their lives. Their dreams are crumbling under the shadow of prostitution. There is no appropriate clap; every clap has something to say. One should be a humanitarian above all; this is the best way to look at it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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