Caste, race and patriarchy are the structures that create inequalities in the society. These agents work with the help of institutions like marriage and religion. The fact that the violence carried out by them is invisible and in very subtle form, makes it more interesting.
Psychiatrist John F. Oliven of Columbia University coined the term transgender in his 1965 reference work Sexual Hygiene and Pathology.
The existing popular culture on transgender people in the Indian subcontinent either depicts them as monstrous or strange beings or freezes them in narratives of victimhood. It is believed that Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their sex assigned at birth. It is a very well known fact that there is a very high dropout rate of trans people from schools, colleges, etc. The reasons include constant ridicule, discrimination in marking systems, sexual harassments, punishments for gender non-conformity, etc. A lot of people are also disowned by their families due to the notion of shame raised up by the caste patriarchy. Many transgender people face discrimination in the workplace and in accessing public accommodations and healthcare. In many places, they are not legally protected from discrimination.
Medical practice categorizes Trans people as having ‘Gender Identity Disorder’. Though the term ‘disorder’ has been replaced by ‘Dysphoria’ by the American Psychiatric Association, it is still listed as a “disorder” in the International Classification of Diseases of the WHO. The exclusions in the field of medical healthcare are also high. To access trans specific healthcare like hormone replacement therapy or gender affirming surgeries, it is mandatory for a person to get a certificate after psychiatric counselling stating that they have a ‘gender identity disorder”. There are a very few hospitals in India that offer trans specific healthcare facilities. The fact that breast-augmentation is a procedure also for cis-women it is the only service available to the trans women with relative ease. The poor quality of surgical intervention in private as well as government medical practice shows apathy to the trans people. They are not a powerful community and hence very less or actually no funds are set aside for the researches in the field of their healthcare. The inaccessibility of the justice system to the trans people greatly reduces the chances of medical negligence cases being filed.
Trans women or hijras are often referred to as eunuchs by state policies, judiciary and the media. The British, in 1871s, included eunuchs among other tribes, castes and social groups that were considered criminals by birth. The prejudiced legal system oppresses them. The laws used to criminalise them are built up on a caste based morality of keeping public spaces free of their “polluting presence”. The exclusions faced by the trans people in employment results in higher rates of vulnerability. Police violence is also very high against the community almost with no recourse to legal protections available to them in cases of crimes they face. The social structures have ostracised trans women and they are considered as a part of the lower class. On 15th of April 2014, the Supreme Court of India declared transgender to be a ‘third gender’ in the Indian law. The transgender community in India (made up of Hijras and others) has a long history in the Hindu mythology. Justice KS Radhakrishnan noted in his decision that, “Seldom, our society realizes or cares to realize the trauma, agony and pain which the members of Transgender community undergo, nor appreciates the innate feelings of the members of the Transgender community, especially of those whose mind and body disown their biological sex”. Inspite of this widely celebrated judgement, there has been less implementation and they are still being denied of their right to change their gender marker on their identity documents without fulfilling some arbitrary criterion of surgical interventions.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is held every year on November 20 in honour of Rita Hester, who was killed on November 28, 1998, in an anti-transgender hate crime. Transgender Awareness Week is a one-week celebration leading up to Transgender Day of Remembrance. Its purpose is to educate about transgender and gender non-conforming people and the issues associated with their transition or identity. A common symbol for the transgender community is the Transgender Pride Flag, which was designed by the American transgender woman Monica Helms in 1999. Other transgender symbols include the butterfly (symbolizing transformation or metamorphosis), and a pink/light blue yin and yang symbol.
Trans people are dehumanised for their so-called unnatural gender behaviours. Social democracy refers to a place where each and every person has equal rights and is respected for his or her distinctiveness. But the marginalisation of dalits, lower class people and transgender would make social democracy unachievable. It’s definitely high time that we realise their inner feelings and stop mistreating them. The realisation must dawn upon us that even they are humans, who are free to choose their way of living. Each person has his own perception and agreeing and relating to it necessary for the well being of all.