Transgenders Suffer Cyber Bullies in Silence
When Ashwini got a friend request on Facebook from an unknown stranger named Sowndar, she didn’t imagine things would go spiraling down within an hour. What started as an abrupt message from someone who posed as an army officer, declaring his love for her, quickly jumped to a flurry of nude, obscene pictures being sent to her inbox. “What instigated this was a fairly simple statement: I am not a girl. I am transgender,” Ashwini said.
It is not just the odd college woman battling her online stalker, or the battalion of feminists who take down obscene pages that fill the Internet, but transgenders reveal they are actually common victims of cyber bullying or harassment in the social media space. Worryingly, it is even more difficult for them to take on the harassers, because of social taboo on transgenders. Ashwini, who uses social media regularly, has to take down many of these Internet stalkers who specifically target transgenders.
“Oh, I get those every other day,” says Dhanam, another trans-woman who works at Snehidhi, an NGO. “Just a few weeks back on my birthday, a guy sent me explicit messages with nude selfies.” She explains that as the scope of befriending people outside their community is low, they turn to social media to meet new people, many of whom turn out to be predators. Despite this, members of the trans-community are hesitant to file a formal complaint with the authorities.
Shankari, an LGBT activist and transperson, says it is nothing out of the norm to deal with harassers both outside and on the Internet. “Which particular person do we complain against? Everyday my inbox is filled with abusive, lewd things. Sometimes I hate opening Facebook, but that is how it usually is,” she says and adds that ignoring harassers has become second nature.
Ashwini threatened her harasser with legal action, but is hesitant to lodge a police complaint. “I have saved screenshots of the conversation as proof. But I am unsure whether the police will take my complaint seriously,” she says.