Today, filling the gender section in a form is no more restricted to just the male and female category. It never was, but now, things are more in the open and a kind of acceptance is once again coming back to our society. Our ancient ‘Puranas’ and scriptures are filled with transgender and homosexual characters. But somewhere in our struggle to find ourselves, there is marginalisation of people who didn’t fit into a defined category. Nature’s cruel joke or a freak is what they became to the world, but thanks to awareness, things are changing. Or are they?
In a recent survey conducted across 23 nations by India’s top media agency along with other international news and opinion firms, India fared really top class in welfare benefits, non-discrimination policies, and various reservations for transgender people.
But when it comes to knowing them in person only 20% of us know a transgender human being from our lives. What are our most common experiences of knowing this community? Wait, let me guess! A hijra is what we popularly call them. They are considered auspicious at our weddings and the birth of our children. A vast majority of Indians believe that transgender people are gifted spiritually and can bless others by their mere presence. Most north Indian weddings are incomplete without a group of hijras dancing and clapping at the ceremony.
Still a taboo
Having said that, it is a huge taboo for us to have them as neighbours or colleagues. Despite all the laws, policies and reservations in their favour, most of our fellow Indians are uncomfortable having them in the same vicinity. Many strongly believe that they belong to a special place, which implies ‘not ours’.
Recently a series of events in a major metro city showed us how backward and prejudiced our thinking is when it comes to something we do not know. A discreetly informally married lesbian couple was sacked in a supposedly modern furniture company in Bangalore. In yet another incident, a software firm saw the sex preference of a prospective employee on Facebook, and rejected a transgender who otherwise had everything going in his favour.
Are we afraid?
As a society are we scared to handle alternate sexuality still? We are either scared, or too conditioned to accept anything that we aren’t that well acquainted with.
While Indians strongly believe in protecting transgenders from any kind of discrimination, no one really defines discrimination. Most of us encounter a hijra only at traffic signals trying to barter blessings for moolah, with hardly any of us trying to understand them better.
While companies are trying hard to be as inclusive as possible, and want to attract the LGBTQ talent on paper, is it actually happening in reality? Can we accept people who change their sex in order to be with a person, or is it all too complicated for us to understand?