Pride Month is more than the marches, brand endorsements and the rainbow. Many of us have our display images this month with the rainbow colour, in support of the LGBTQ+ cause. There is a movement creeping up silently but steadily among people to stand with each other towards humanitarian issues. But, it still remains a slow growth of acceptance among people.
One has to proudly admit that India has been making strides towards gender equality. This year, we have much to celebrate in the LGBTQ+ inclusivity. In a historic move, transgenders have been given 1% reservation for government services in Karnataka.
This is a great move in bringing them into the mainstream, where the age-old practice of transpeople blessing binary couples at their weddings, singing in affluent homes at childbirth, becoming bar dancers to titilate the fetish of the customers seeking sexual services and the meagre earnings from this will slowly but steadily reduce.
Though the subject of sexuality in India still remains steeped in tradition, it is mired in biases held primarily by the majority. Therefore, the minorities face the trauma of the majority and its misunderstanding, reluctance to accept anything outside the limited understanding of non binary individuals. Often the judgement towards them is harsh and sometimes brutal.
India gained independence 75 years back from the British rule but Britain left back its colonial hangover among the educated and the well-heeled Indians. We forgot the progressive culture we traditionally belonged to. British rule continued to carry forward the criminalisation of the transgenders and most of us unquestionably continued the atrocities passed on by the Brits.
Indian mythology is richly abundant with stories of transgenders who held senior positions in the Indian courts. This was debunked with the arrival of the missionaries in India who propagated their own faith. The aristocratic society embraced the English way of living. Therefore, with the British rule and its incessant need to colonise our way of thinking, the transgenders or the Hijras were methodically marginalised and became the moral panic of the binary aristocratic people of independent India.
The British officials had begun considering eunuchs “ungovernable”. Commentators said they evoked images of “filth, disease, contagion and contamination”. They were portrayed as people who were “addicted to sex with men”. Colonial officials said they were not only a danger to “public morals”, but also a “threat to colonial political authority”.
During the British colonial rule in India in 1864 as a legal transplant of the British 1533 Buggery Act, this section criminalised non-procreative sexualities. Historically, it was used to target the weakest of them, which was the transgender community.
With the reservation in government jobs, we do have much to cheer on towards steps to eradicate the archaic mindset and more progress towards inclusivity as a nation.
But, this battle is more long drawn and deeper than what meets the eye. Over the years, trans people are used to being treated inhumanly by the binary people who have conveniently forgotten our rich culture of acceptance and all the mythological figures.
The majority of the population find it difficult in accepting and understanding the non-binary issues of health, sexual drive, need for acceptance or their emotional well being. This trauma of unacceptability is deeply entrenched in their heart of the transgenders due to lack of opportunities, resort to sex work, alcohol and violence. Societal induced seclusion on them turns makes them suspicious and aggressive towards society at large.
Change is steadily but surely happening. We are slowly beginning to understand that gender fluidity is a reality.
However, the challenge lies at the grassroot levels where a trans person is denied medical checks up even today. In a conversation with Aryan Pasha, India’s first trans man body builder, he narrated the trauma he faced while growing up of not being able to confide in anyone about his menstrual cycles. Yes! trans men do menstruate and they live in constant panic to not be bullied or beaten up when they need to change their sanitary napkin in a male toilet that doesn’t have privacy and it’s an open space in all public urinals.
As we progress, education of inclusivity must be incorporated at a basic level.
With the job reservation for transgenders, the rest of the employees in the government offices must be also be sensitised towards the third gender. Transgenders inclusivity must begin very early on. It must begin in schools with transgender teachers for young impressionable children. This is where the foundation of non-stereotyping of gender will begin its genesis.
There is also worry about the trauma the transgender might face if they are treated with inequality by the other employees.
Will there be a law enforced on any transgression or anyone who might show resistance and hostility towards them?
Joining the mainstream life must be for a secure life for transgenders. It must be economically, emotionally and substantially different for them. There must be an environment of security as opposed to the brutality of begging at traffic signals.
It must begin with our attitude towards them. To ensure that they do not return to the life of indignity, the working environment must be kind with empathy. The government must put aside a budget for toilets where they do not feel violated or threatened by others. Many transgenders and activists are still emotionally denied love by their parents and very few have healed from their past.
Sadly, a young 17-year-old transgender committed suicide last month unable to handle the brutality she faced on traffic signals as a sex worker. If only someone could tell her to ‘hold on!’.
We are at the tip of the iceberg, that is surely and slowly shifting. All non-binary people must embrace and acknowledge that change is the only constant.
Mohua Chinappa hosts a popular podcast on gender and social issues called The Mohua Show and is the author of Nautanki Saala and Other Stories.