By Dilgrace Kaur
Search for 'Transgender' on Google and the result that you'll get to see is a strip of colourful people, standing hand-in-hand together. This initiative of Google to support LGBT is not only an evidence of humanity but progression. As part of its celebration of LGBT Pride Month, Google has also released an ad telling the story of one man who presented his transition from a female to male on YouTube.
This year has been different for them. The long battle of the third gender, for rights and equality has finally started to bear them results that they have been longing for, all over the world. This June, Vanity Fair magazine featured a transgender, Caitlyn Jenner, the American Olympic decathlon champion and television personality, on its cover with the byword - 'Call me Caitlyn' - that sparked a lot of buzz. The move was welcomed by heaps of praises by millions of people on social media including US President Barack Obama, who commended Jenner for her courage.
After dealing with gender dysphoria since her youth, Jenner took the step and decided to live the way she always wished to. This is not just Jenner's story but the reality of over 7,00,000 people in the US and 4,90,000 in India alone.
Transgender people in India have gone through difficult times to survive in the society and continue to face such trauma even today. They have been isolated, mistreated and discriminated since ages for being different. They have been ostracised, their education has been hampered and they have been forced into lewd occupations like prostitution and begging.
According to the census of 2014 (first time people belonging to the third gender were counted), majority of the transgender population in India are illiterate. They face high levels of stigma in almost every sphere of their life such as health, schools/colleges, employment, social schemes and entitlement.
A newspaper recently exposed a racket of doctors practising in the national capital who offered to 'cure' transgender people. They claimed the same to be a mental and genetic disorder which can be corrected by electric shocks and drugs. Revealing the torture and maltreatment they had to go through, the statements made by the people whose families forced them into this treatment were bone-chilling.
Last year, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court recognized the third gender and asked the Centre to treat transgender people as socially and economically backward. The court ordered a non-discriminatory enrolment of them in educational institutions and demanded them to be given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.
The judgement came as a boon for the transgender population in India. Following the orders, Delhi University included the option of the third gender in its admission forms last year, which received nine applications. This year the number went up to 66. As a historical achievement for the group, a women's college in West Bengal appointed Manobi Bandyopadhyay, a transgender as its principal. Also the Delhi High Court sent a notice to UPSC demanding an explanation for as to why the third gender option has not yet been included in the 2015 civil services examination.
The reason society has been treating transgender people the way it does, is because they do not fit the conventions created by the former. In the media that we come across every day, be it in films or television, they are not included much. But this practice is slowly changing as documentary and film-makers are taking up their stories and focusing upon them in their artwork. The 2013 American biographical drama film, Dallas Buyers Club, bought up the issue in the movie with a transgender supporting character Rayon played by Jared Leto, for which the actor also received an academy award. The character of Rayon gives a glimpse of a transgender person's life and reaffirms that they are as human, as we are. Thus, to change the stereotypical norms, such films are need of the hour.
All human beings are born free and are equal and ought to be entitled to enjoyment of human rights with dignity and without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Also, everyone is entitled to equality before the law. Transgender people are also part of society and have equal rights which are available to others. However, the discrimination based on their class and gender makes the transgender community one of the most dis-empowered and deprived groups in Indian society.
Jenner's story is the beginning of a change - the dawn of a revolution. What we have to do is to ensure that we help the community achieve what it rightfully deserves. And that starts by accepting them in our lives.
“When did the skin on our bodies, the difference in our voice, or the direction our heart takes us decide whether or not we should have human rights?”
― Isabella Poretsis