THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Housekeeping in apartments or odd jobs such as collecting wastes from residential areas is no longer an option for Revathi JR, a transwoman who used to eke out a living doing such work.
Before the lockdown, she was able to earn between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 monthly. But the nationwide lockdown has left her with no option to earn her daily bread.
Disowned by family, Revathi had been working as a housekeeper in Kowdiar for more than four years. However, she hasn't worked ever since the lockdown. "The community I worked at closed their gates to outsiders. I was also sent back," said Revathi, who stays in a rented room in Ambalamukku.
Revathi shared the rent of Rs 5,000 along with two other transgenders who used to work in hotels. However, as hotels and restaurants were closed, they went back to their homes. "It has been four months since I last paid my rent. However, my landlord has been very understanding. I’m willing to work anywhere but my chances are slim," said Revathi.
She also added that although food kits were provided in March by the Social Justice Department, it hardly sufficed for a month. Like Revathi, a majority of trans and non-binary individuals are facing a mammoth challenge with depleting food supplies and no savings to pay their rent.
Members of the transgender community who were self-employed are also out of work.Another transwoman, Ananya, an RJ-turned-makeup artist and anchor said her work has been hit hard since March. "I considered 2020 to be a lucky year for me since I had received many bookings for weddings. But with weddings becoming a family affair with limited guests, I booked just one client in the last three months," said Ananya, who lives in Ernakulam.
Many members of the transgender community are surviving with the help of community organisations providing them with food and medicines. Transgender and non-binary persons who have undergone sex reassignment surgery need to take hormone pills regularly – this has become impossible during the lockdown.
"The government is yet to sanction the medicine for 15 days which is usually given to transmen or transwomen after they undergo their sex reassignment surgery. Delay in taking timely medication can lead to more complications," said Ananya.
Alongside the lack of funds, food and treatment, the community is also facing discrimination and trauma, especially in the wake of the pandemic. "Members of the transgender community are facing severe stress and anxiety," said Ananya.
Although Queerhythm, a community-based organisation working for the rights of the gender and sexual minorities, has been helping to sustain their members, they have limitations. Queerythm president Prijith PK said, "We have provided food kits to some members but we don’t have enough funds to sustain them till the pandemic is over."