Transgender people: fighting for social identity

The revolutionary decision by the Government of Bihar to recruit transgender people as under-inspectors and state police officers has opened the door to opportunities to fulfill their ambitions. Following the Apex Court ruling in 2014 for mainstreaming transgender people, this inherent commitment reinforces the government’s view of their long-awaited acceptance in society.

Transgender people are the most marginalized part of our society. They are deprived of their basic rights and privileges. Their exclusion from all walks of life, whether in social, religious, cultural, political, professional, educational, medical or other sectors, has made their lives miserable.
Transgender (TG) is basically an umbrella term that includes the person whose own gender sense does not match the gender assigned to that person at birth. They include trans men or women (regardless of whether this person has undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy or such other therapy), gender queries, persons with intersex variations and a number of socio-cultural identities such as Kinnar, Hijra, Aravani, Jogta, Shivshakti etc. These people are often discriminated against because of their transgender identity, expression or behavior.
This group of people is rejected first by their parents and then by the whole of society. They are deprived of their inheritance rights and have to leave the parental home. Accordingly, they have no one to rely on; other than as their own physical and mental group. For lack of social acceptance, inaccessibility of education, their reluctance to get a position in a formal job and so many reasons; they eventually fall into unemployment or understaffing. To make a living, they have to struggle every step of the way and are sometimes forced into rude devotion by begging, snatching, or even prostitution.
Failure to recognize the identity of Hijra / transgender people denies them equal protection by law, leaving them extremely vulnerable to harassment, violence and assault in public places, at home and in prison, including by the police. Sexual assaults, including assault, rape, forced anal and oral sex, gang rape, and stripping, are committed with impunity.
Our society seldom realizes the trauma, pain, and pain that transgender people experience, nor does it appreciate their innate feelings, especially those whose minds and bodies deny their biological sex. They are forced to live with low self-esteem, low income and poor social dignity. These people are so neglected that the homeowners don’t rent them out because they think other residents will be uncomfortable. Transgender people face fear, shame, gender dysphoria, social pressure, depression, suicidal tendencies, social stigma, etc.
Although, in some cases, there are people complaining about transgender rough behavior, reprehensible comments and vigorous begging. In some places they are blackmailed and even children are held hostage for money. They become ruthless and barbaric because they provide for their needs. But such rare incidents can be dealt with under existing laws.
In India, the transgender people have a mythological and historical background, as they had a glorious, half-frightened status in society. The concept of “Tritiya Prakriti” or “Napunsaka” (to indicate the absence of reproductive power) has been an integral part of Ved and Puran. They have been described with important role in Mahabharat and Ramayan. Lord Ram has empowered them to grant blessings to people on auspicious occasions such as weddings, childbirth and inaugural functions; which later turned into an adapted “Badhai”, on which the Hijras sing, dance and bless. In Kurukshetra Yuddha of Mahabharat, the decisive role was played by Shikhandi, a transgender person, in Arjun’s murder of Bhishma Pitamah. Aravan, the son of Arjun and Nagkanya, also had the association with transgender Mohini (transformed feminine form of Lord Krishna) before sacrificing himself to goddess Kali for Pandav’s victory.
The transgender people had a prominent role in the royal court of the Islamic world, especially in the Ottoman Empire and Mugal rule. Jain literature also includes reference to TG, which mentions the concept of “psychological sex.” Actually, their situation changed drastically during the British rule in 1871, when the entire Hijra community was established as a criminal tribe. With the passage of time and changes in the social and cultural context, the majority of them are now leaving their traditional profession.
In India, in its groundbreaking judgment of April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court designated transgender as the “third gender” to safeguard their fundamental rights and declared them as socially and economically backward citizens. An “Expert Committee”, set up under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MOSJE) for in-depth study of transgender people, has recommended several measures to alleviate their problems. This ministry has been made a hub to accelerate welfare work with convergence of different ministries and their schemes.
The schemes advocated by the committee for transgender people consist of a loan with a 25% subsidy to enable them to be self-employed, a pension scheme for the 40-60 age group and a subsidy to voluntary organizations. who are committed to their empowerment. The recommendations are also for setting up advisory services to deal with trauma and violence crises, involvement of Anganwadi workers and self-help groups in TG issues, action against delinquent police officers in case of violation of their fundamental rights, sexual harassment policies on the workplace transgender inclusive, and provide housing assistance schemes for them.
In the education sector, the government must provide scholarships, fee waivers, free hostels and other facilities at a subsidized rate. An anti-discrimination cell will be formed to monitor the discrimination against TG and content about TG will be included in the curriculum of adolescent education. Providing career guidance and online placement support, vocational training, survey to identify their population must also be done for their well-being. Under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019, the National Council for Transgender Persons (NCTP) was established in 2020 to advise, monitor, review and coordinate policies and resolve their grievances. To this end, a screening committee has been set up at district level, headed by the district magistrate.
In addition to government initiatives to eradicate the social stigma of the transgender community, intensive public awareness is needed. Some TV show producers have also come forward to highlight such pertinent and serious issues through series like “Shakti – Astitwa ke Ehsaas ki”.
In addition to India, transgender people are also recognized as third gender in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangala Desh, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. In the US, people are struggling to legally recognize gender outside of the male-female binary code (such as Ay-gender, gender-fluid, and pan-gender).
Transgender people are neither physically handicapped nor mentally handicapped; but only misses social identity in their life. If we are to thrive, the only way for an educated advanced society to include the entire third gender group in the mainstream activities is by empowering them, educated, skilled, and Atmanirbhar citizen.

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