Transgenders Oppose Government Report
By Sharadha Kalyanam | Published: 17th March 2014 08:48 AM |
The recent report by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to tackle issues faced by transgender people has not gone down well with certain groups of transgender people in the country --- the oft-neglected trans masculine community who call themselves a minority within the sexual minority community.
Bangalore-based transgender men say the 13-chapter report that was put out last week does little to address their problems.
Last month, a group of transgender men, or female-to-male (FtM) transgenders, wrote to the Ministry asking for more focus on transgender masculine communities. They contended that the ongoing government welfare measures were focused only on hijras, Aravanis and other sections of male-to-female (MtF) transgenders.
Minorities Within Minorities
They demanded that while there are support systems available for male-to-female transgenders or transgender women, transgender men are left out. Said Gee Ameena Suleiman, a transgender man and Bangalore-based activist,”The government, through NGOs, is trying to reach transgender women through HIV programmes as they are a high-risk group. But transgender men do not have such a support systems as we don’t fall under the high-risk HIV bracket and are seen as women,” he said.
‘Legislation Will Stop Abuse’
Satish (name changed) a Bangalore-based transgender man, who is also one of the authors of the recommendations, said while social acceptance for transgender men will take time, putting a law in place will ensure that abuse and torture of transgender people stops.
“Transgender people are badly abused across realms. We may want to undergo sex reassignment surgery, but there aren’t enough hospitals in Bangalore that have the facility, and the procedure is very expensive. We are not women but are seen as females by our family and society and often mistaken to be just homosexuals,” said Satish, who works at a private company in Electronics City. Having come to terms with his gender identity only a few years ago, Satish (32) faces abuse on a daily basis at his workplace.
“Just because we look different, people start misbehaving with us. It is very common. People also make embarrassing remarks. Education on this matter is important and our countrymen should support and protect us,” he added.
Small Sample Size
But there are glitches. When the Ministry constituted an Expert Committee in October 2013 to look into the issues facing transgenders, only two transgender women were made a part of it and there was no representation from the other section of the same community, which is the transgender men, said Gee.
“Of all the members, only two were transgender women and the rest were government officials and academicians. Once we pushed for representation, two transgender men were called, but made to sit outside the meeting room in the subsequent sitting. They were special invitees with no power to make core changes in the recommendations,” he said.
While only a few recommendations were included, even those have been highly diluted, Gee said.
“The government is not making any commitment for our betterment. Transgender men are seen as women, and are caught between the four walls of our houses.”
“Doctors abuse us and even if we have a fever, no medical questions are asked and we are questioned about our bodies instead,” he added.
Among other recommendations were: provision to fill in gender identity for transgender men in government documents and forms.
“A blank space should be left for them to fill their identity. Transgender people wishing to tick in the male or female columns should be allowed to do so,” it said.
They also demanded that sex reassignment surgery should not be a determinant for change of legal identity, as not all transgender men may be in a position to afford it.
Anoop Kumar Srivastava, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment who chaired the Expert Committee, admitted that stigmatisation of gender-nonconforming and transgender children and youth is a problem in the education system, which caused immense stress for several transgender-persons assigned gender female at birth (PAGFB). He said transgender men and transgender women are equally subjected to sexual harassment at the workplace, and that it is untrue that the Committee has not considered the demands of transgender men.
However, he did admit that transgender men had no representation in the original Committee, but later, two transgender men --- Tanmay and Sunil Mohan --- were invited for the subsequent two meetings in November 2013 and January 2014.
He denied the allegations that they were not allowed to make suggestions.
“It will be incorrect to say that transgender men did not have participatory rights,” Srivastava said.