Is ending the Gender Binary enough?

It was forenoon.  The doorbell rang. Peeping through the window, I discovered it was a ‘hijra.’ When I announced this to my Mom, she said rehne do, bahar matt jao. Darwaza band karlo.’ Showing a bit of temerity, when I went outside, following my Dad, he/she said, ‘Kyun sahib, hijre ko apne ghar ke aangan mein dekh ke naraz ho gye?

My Dad maintained his composure and chose to ignore the comment. We came back inside and shut the door. A couple of minutes later, my sister came downstairs, asking who had rung the bell. Outrageous, as it may now seem, I heard the words, A transgender. Wish to address his woes?’ crawl out of my mouth, almost impulsively.

Discomfited with myself at my impromptu, yet unwarranted reply, and ashamed of the hypocrite human psyche that I had just yielded to, a plethora of thoughts rocked my head as I descended into introspection.Less than two months ago, in the examination hall of one of the entrances that I had taken, I was faced with a question demanding an essay on the recognition of transgender as a third gender.

As a keen aspirant, I had hailed and applauded the Supreme Court Judgement, dated April 15, 2014, as all mighty and landmark in the history of Indian Judiciary and did definitely succeed, through it, to grab a seat at that institute, yet, my act today, failed me, as a fellow human, and brought to naught, all the sensitivity that I, until now, had pretended to show on paper. The barrage of emotions that had been spanking me, were already taking its toll.

Time and again, we have all heard utterances like, ‘what a pitiable creature, must have been punished for a past life karma, such a miserable life he has written to his fate’, for this gender, yet what we fail to realise, is that more than the redemption of a past life sin, what has made the condition of this community so deplorable, is the condescending conduct and the reproachful response, we, as a society, shower on them. I remember, when I was young I was really scared of this third gender. Reason being, I had heard from somewhere that these people take small children with themselves and make them like their own. As a kid, I bought this story and hence whenever faced with such a situation, would hide myself, lest I be taken to sing and dance on marriages and child birth. And mine was no lone case. All my peers had similar versions.Thus, as children we were “conditioned” into believing that the hijra community was more like a band of thieves, kidnappers, or some wayward ruffians who took to a scuffle at the slightest provocation. And thus, we were taught to be wary of them, ignore them, look down upon them and close our doors on them, lest all heavens break lose in our own porch. And this was no different from how we saw our elders behave with them, with absolutely no iota of consideration or compassion.

The Transgender community has often faced extreme forms of violence for not confirming to the socially dictated gender identities, often within the families and communities where they face abuse, discrimination, disinheritance and abandonment. One may thus hope that the Supreme Court verdict may bring to them, a ray of sunshine.The recent Judgement delivered by the Apex Court, giving this community a much desired and deserved legal status, was hailed by one and all as ‘a courageous decision that embeds the rights of the transgender persons primarily within the right to equality in the Indian Constitution.’

The Court rightly maintained that the lack of recognition of their gender identity curbs their inalienable rights as access to education, healthcare and public places and results in discrimination on several grounds like contesting elections, securing employment, getting access to important documents like driving license, etc. While the premise on which the Judiciary constructed this historic verdict was primarily concerned with the notion that gender identity is not necessarily biologically determined, and that ‘the individual’s experience of gender is one of the most fundamental aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom’, yet it cannot be called a victory in totality, as it is missing an essential ingredient.It has been clearly articulated by the judicial machinery that transgender persons should no longer be treated with cruelty, pity or charity, but, the bigger question is that whether it can bring about ‘the paradigm shift towards a rights based approach where they are accepted as fully human?

The epidemic that plagues our society is that of a retarded retrograde psyche and a malaised mental makeup, which is totally unaccepting of accommodating ‘the so called abnormalities.’ And so I ask, can then, just ending the gender binary, make any difference, whatsoever?One cannot expect a complete overhaul in the social attitudes overnight, but we must also remember that Indians, prior to colonisation, had a history of social inclusivity, where this community was considered a respected segment of the society, Hindu mythology being a testimony to it. ‘Ramayana itself mentions that it was Lord Rama who gave to the eunuchs, the power to bless important occasions like childbirth and marriage.I chanced to read this somewhere, ‘Just as law can manufacture intolerance, it can also create gradual social acceptance.’ And probably, this is what the Apex Court has been counting on, in delivering this verdict.As Hillary Clinton once said,“Being gay is not a western invention, but a human reality.”      

I strongly believe that the transgender community is also a human reality, and we as a human society should be accommodating, not just in letter but also in spirit, to these people, to a world where they too belong, by not just granting them a legal recognition, but more importantly, a social one as well.

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