One has to give it to the local mayor for taking a very courageous step. He announced recently that he had decided to use the services of the transgender community for recovery of property tax from defaulters. For want of any more details, it is hoped the Mayor of Bhopal has seriously thought about the matter and bring about a change in the lives of the transgender community and people’s perception about them. Surely, he knows that the defaulters are not going to be shamed by the appearance of a transgender at their door to cough up their dues to the municipal corporation. No, not in Bhopal which hosts, perhaps, one of the largest transgender communities.
However, if this is the intention it would be exploiting the transgender community’s sexual aberration to the advantage of the civic body. This is precisely what had been done in Pakistan – in Lahore and Karachi. The property tax evaders were literally raided by transgender people who were successful in intimidating the defaulters to promptly pay up their dues. Reports said that in Pakistan a single round of clapping by the members of the community was enough for the wallets to be fished out and opened up. Something similar was tried in Bihar also and the defaulters did not know where to hide. A group of transgender people with their ungainly gait and hoarse voices, clapping away in the way only they can was enough to rattle the Bihari tax defaulter as, perhaps, it would any other.
Viewed from all aspects, to use the transgender community in this fashion would not appear to be proper, especially by public agencies. The public organizations are expected to take care of them and should attempt to improve their lot and eradicate the discriminatory treatment meted out to them. In India, in fact in the entire South Asia the life of a transgender is miserable and demeaning. It starts from their families who generally do not accept a transgender baby even if she happens to be their own. They are, therefore, necessarily adopted by the transgender community who care for them and bring them up in their own peculiar way. As they grow old they are humiliated at every step and are made to earn their living by dancing at weddings or celebrations for child-birth, where their presence is, curiously, considered auspicious, at least, in the Indian society. And yet to earn their keep they have to go begging or using their own queer sexuality.
The world of transgender community is far too apart from normal bi-polar two-gender society so much so that there cannot be any intermixing between the two, thus debarring them forever from joining the social mainstream. It always works like that and when it deviates it is sustained only for a while, only to get back to where the deviation commenced from. An example will perhaps clarify it. A Bengali transgender, Manabi Bandhopadhyay, broke the shackles of social normality after she had completed higher education. She decided to throw off her fake masculinity by subjecting herself to surgical procedures to align her sexual orientation with her physicality. Having acquired a doctorate on the subject of the community of transgender she applied and was appointed as principal of a women’s college in Krishnagar, Nadia. Troubles for her started immediately. Unable to bear the daily harassment from both, teachers and students she gave up and resigned. Behind it all was her gender or rather the apparent absence of it. Thankfully, however, here there was another deviation. The government of West Bengal that had decided to inquire into complaints against the principal found that they were mostly untrue and rejected her resignation. Happily she is back at her job. Such examples are rare and only brave can take all the innuendoes and abuses that are hurled at a transgender. After all, a transgender is viewed as a sub-human in the normal two-gendered Indian society.
This is precisely what is being currently shown in a soap opera telecast by the intrepid Colours channel. It was a very brave move by the channel as it was a way out-of-the-ordinary soap. The girl enacting the role of the transgender in the serial also exhibited extraordinary guts to take on such a role. The storyline reveals how from the very birth machinations of fate made her escape the atrocities of her father who tried to even bury her alive soon after her birth. It was fate again that threw her into the arms of a loving Punjabi boy of a conservative family which, though doting on the only son, subjected the transgender to untold miseries by inflicting on her extreme mental and physical agony. That she was unwelcome in the house was made plain to her at every step. It was only deep love for her that the boy wouldn’t let go of her for she not only had a beautiful face but also beautiful head and heart – a very well assembled complete package of a human being.
Unfortunately, the problem that the transgender face is universal; the differences, if any, are only in degrees. In the West, however, the transgender are not subjected to such pernicious treatment as in South Asia. Yet, in lots of ways efforts are being made at inclusivity for them. In Britain, for example, the Lloyds Banking Group’s Rainbow Network has thousands of members and allies connecting and supporting LGBT colleagues by providing professional networking events and mentoring. The basic idea is to integrate the transgender employees in the work force by promoting inclusivity and training. All this can happen when the lines of recruitment are open and the transgender can find employment
In India, however, things continue to be different – regressive and status-quoist. Transgender are a neglected community which is shunned by virtually everybody. They have been left to their own devices. They are hardly educated and if one ever happens to find admission in a school she is bullied and humiliated so much that she finds the confines of her community safer than the cruel outside world.
Nonetheless, the government seems to be alive to their problems and has already accepted to enact a law on the basis of a Private Member’s bill. This will be like breaking new ground as it will fill the vacuum of absence of legislation in respect of their status, their rights etc. In this connection, a government release said that “through this bill the government has evolved a mechanism for their social, economic and educational empowerment. The bill will benefit a large number of transgender persons, mitigate the stigma, discrimination and abuse against this marginalized section and bring them into mainstream of society.”
As there seems to have been no movement in regard to passing of the enabling legislation the transgender community would seem to have a long wait in front of them. Governments do grind but they do so very slowly. A generation or two could pass by before the enactment takes effect.
In the meantime, however, one hopes the Bhopal mayor will take personal initiative sooner than later to improve the lot of this blighted community of substantial numbers and spread the word around for their uplift among his friends in other municipal corporations.