Transgender, Trains and Taboos

What’s the first image that comes to your mind upon hearing the word “Transgender”? Is it one of disapproval, disgust and social stigma? I don’t blame you entirely because our societies since ages have developed many taboos around the transgender community. However, blaming the society for their miserable treatment doesn’t come across as a nice defense as we are ourselves form a part of that very same society.

The word Transgender is an umbrella term that describes people whose gender identity or expression does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender person may identify as a woman despite having been born with male genitalia.” You would be amazed to know about the transgender themes occurring in the Indian mythology. From the Mohini avatar of lord Vishnu, Sikhandi in Mahabharata, Lord Agni (The consort of moon good) and Lord Aravan (the transgender god) ,all find mention in ancient Indian epics and puranas).

Yet why is it that we aren’t inclusive of the transgender community?

This community has faced atrocities and discrimination to a point that it pushed the government to pass the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 in Parliament on November 26, 2019. This bill prohibits discrimination and grants rights to the transgender community of which they had been robbed of for long.

Has the bill really brought about a significant change in status quo of the Transgender community? Let’s figure it out for ourselves

  • Kochi metro employs transgender people: Kerala’s Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) shattered all myths when it offered jobs to 23 transgender people in their staff in the year 2017 through Kudumbashree Mission .It was a laudable move by KMRL which not only aimed at making the community financially independent but also  bringing about social inclusion .

One of the transgender employees says “This also was our first secure job. It proved that we too can do jobs that any other person does. With increasing acceptability, getting accommodation too became easier”.

While the other transgender members were happy to receive wedding invites from their colleagues. The commuters too expressed a welcoming attitude towards them with no incidence of misbehaving.

  • However, this once promising move could not contribute significantly in bringing about a change in the real sense. At present, out of 23 transgender persons hired only 6 are working with the KMRL. Many quit jobs citing a poor pay. The members had hard time in finding accommodation in the city .With no hike in the salary, sustaining in the city became a nightmare. 

Faisu , a former employee with the KMRL says “Since we were hired on contract, the salary was less. Our salary was `13,000, which reduced to `9,000 after all the deductions, including Provident Fund. It is difficult to meet our monthly expenses with the amount.”

  • Noida metro dedicates station for transgender Community: Following the Kochi metro model, the Noida metro dedicated Noida Sector 50 metro station for the transgender community. It is the first of its kind in North India. This praiseworthy initiative by the Yogi government aims at uplifting and providing employment to the transgender people. The station has been renamed “She man” for the inclusion of community into the mainstream. But this name hasn’t gone down well with certain people and human rights activists who called it as trans- phobic, derogatory and insulting. The committee has taken this criticism into consideration and invited suggestions on the same.These members will be offered mainly housekeeping, ticket collecting roles. This initiative comes as a ray of hope because as per Census 2011, there are 4.9 lakh transgenders in India out of which approximately 30,000 to 40,000 stay in the NCR.

Now here come the big questions

  • Who will make sure that the NOIDA metro model does not meet a similar fate as the Kochi metro?
  • Who will ensure that the transgender members get adequate salary?
  • Most importantly, who will ensure they receive fair treatment and inclusion that they deserve?

No, it is not the sole responsibility of the authorities. It is rather a collective effort. It is our combined responsibility to ensure that the transgender community receives the welcoming treatment they have long been denied. These schemes, initiatives are just a small step. In order to make them fruitful we have to work at grass root levels, spreading awareness and sensitivity about gender identity. It has to start with you and me. It’s time we bust the taboos and embrace the transgender community with open hearts.