CHALLENGES OF TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY IN INDIA
UPSC MAINS SOCIOLOGY SYLLABUS
Paper 2 – Section C – Visions of Social Change in India
(vii) Challenges of Social Transformation:
(a) Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.
(b) Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.
(c) Violence against women.
(d) Caste conflicts.
(e) Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.
(f) Illiteracy and disparities in education.
The modern term ‘transgender’ arose in the mid-1990s from the grassroots community of gender-different people. There are a host of socio-cultural groups within trans people in India like hijras, kinnars, and other identities like – shiv-shaktis, jogtas, jogappas, etc.
Though there has been a positive movement for the LGBTQAI+ community in recent years, many transgenders feel there’s still a lot more to do in the fight for equality. It was the NALSA judgement that gave them the right to self-identification. The NALSA judgement also made provision for reservations for transgender people across government and private sectors. While the judgement did have its flaws, it was well-researched, diplomatic, and shone a ray of hope among the trans community.
MARGINALISATION AND SOCIAL EXCLUSION
Marginalization is at the core of exclusion from fulfilling and full social lives at interpersonal and societal levels. People who are marginalized have relatively little control over their lives and the resources available to them; they may become stigmatized and are often at the receiving end of negative public attitudes. The marginalized people may be limited opportunities to make social contributions and they may develop low self-confidence and self-esteem and may become isolated. Also they have relatively limited access to valued social resources such as education and health services, housing, income,
leisure activities and work. TG individuals may experience multiple forms of marginalization-such as racism, sexism, poverty or other factors – alongside homophobia or transphobia that negatively impact on mental health. This marginalization often excludes Transgender people from many support structures, often including their own families, leaving them with little access to services many others take for granted, such as medical care, justice and legal services, and education. Marginalization and bias around sexual orientation and gender identity and expression regularly prevent Transgender people from
accessing fundamental public services such as health care and housing and contributes to significant health disparities.
It is very challenging to provide the same educational opportunities to transgender children as other students because the schools operate on a binary model of gender and sex. The children are expected to behave in one of two predetermined ways. They are not expected to act differently depending on whether they are a girl or a boy, because it is not regarded as normal for this gender. Transgender children feel caged and cannot express themselves in the way they choose because they cannot associate themselves with this binary model.
Every school has two different types of restrooms, one for boys and the other for girls. This issue frequently arises for transgender students. They don’t have access to designated changing rooms, common rooms, or locker rooms in schools. They do not have safe access to basic necessities.
Majority of this community is illiterate or less educated due to which they are not able to participate fully in social, cultural, political and economic activities. Actually educational Institutions are very much gendered place. Stigmatization of gender-nonconforming and transgender children and youth is amplified in the educational system, which mirrors the rest of society in reinforcing strictly binary and patriarchal gender norms. According to Indian Census 2011, the population of transgender is around 4.9 lakh in the country. Census data also reveals that this community has low literacy rate, just 46 percent transgenders are literate, compared to 74 percent literacy in the general population.
According to a study conducted by the National Human Rights Commission in 2018, 96 per cent transgenders are denied jobs and are forced to take low paying or undignified work for livelihood like badhais, sex work and begging. The first-ever study on the rights of transgenders also revealed that about 92 per cent of transgenders are deprived of the right to participate in any form of economic activity in the country, with even qualified ones refused jobs.
Stigma, discrimination and violence against gender-nonconforming and transgender children in families and school systems, are further compounded by economic marginalization. Those transgender individuals who manage to survive the hostility they encounter as children and youth, find their employment opportunities as to be curtailed, both by the limited formal education many have had, and by stigma and discrimination in recruitment practices of many employers, as well as hostility in most workplaces, absence of gender-appropriate rest rooms, etc.
Transphobia describes someone who has hate, fear, or disgust for transgender people or anyone who does not fit into the male/female gender binary. For example, a transphobic person may express disgust for a “tomboy” or for a masculine-appearing person wearing a dress. Transphobia, in basic terms, refers to any expression of fear or hatred directed toward folks who are transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming. While transphobia tends to decrease as awareness around gender increases, it remains a major problem in some communities. It doesn’t just cause distress by invalidating someone’s identity, though that’s harmful enough. It also often leads to hate speech, hate crimes, and systemic discrimination.
Transphobia is now referred to as transmisia. The “misia” in transmisia means “hatred.” This is a helpful word because it highlights the prejudice at the root of beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and systems that hurt or deny the existence of trans and nonbinary people.
MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES
To be clear, being transgender is not a mental illness. But people who are transgender do struggle with higher levels of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide than the general population. People who are transgender also have the highest rates of mental health challenges among people who identify as LGBTQ. The transgender community in India is highly vulnerable to mental and physical illness, in large part due to limited economic opportunities, forcing many of them to engage in sex work and begging. Traditionally they were having special powers which conferred religious authority to transwomen and their blessings were sought at weddings and births. However, over time, the stigmatization, prejudice, and mistreatment of transgenders has increased.
International research papers clearly show that people belonging to the LGBTQIA community experience poorer mental health than heterosexual individuals. A study showed that 61 per cent of them had depression, 45 per cent had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and 36 per cent had an anxiety disorder. Trans woman and activist Dhananjay Mangalmukhi is a well-known face in the trans community. She said that conditions for trans women are worse than those of trans men. “In this society, nobody wants to be a woman. It feels so depressing that at this age too, we cannot roam outside freely because of the stereotypical eyes of people around us.”
LGBTQ adults have almost double the rate of suicides. According to US Transgender Survey, 40 per cent of transgender people have attempted suicide, during their lifetime, compared to less than five per cent of the US population as a whole. The lockdown imposed by COVID pandemic further added to the woes of the people of this community. A lot of trans people resort to jobs like begging, working in beauty salons and are employed as sex workers, they were one of the worst affected. They lost their daily wage and struggled for two square meals. This further acted as a catalyst to degrade their self-esteem and mental health.
Despite a pre-colonial heritage that recognized and celebrated gender diversity in temple sculptures, mythology and religious treatises, it could be concluded that transgender people in India, today, face intolerance, stigma, discrimination and violence. Human rights violations against transgender people infuse families, educational institutions, workplaces, institutions such as law-enforcement, healthcare, media, and society at large. Affirmative actions are needed to wipe out stigma and discrimination associated with the community.