Fight for a home: Tales from transgender rights organisation

Subiksha's advocacy secures homes for 113 members of the transgender community, offering a path to dignity and financial independence.
Subiksha (C) along with other trans members of My Society Trust she founded. (Photo | S Senbagapandiyan, EPS)
Subiksha (C) along with other trans members of My Society Trust she founded. (Photo | S Senbagapandiyan, EPS)

COIMBATORE:  Shortly after P Shobana arrived at her new apartment last August, she went shopping for a trash can. She knew she did not need gunny bags, or plastic bags anymore. She was sure that this time, she could get a medium-sized round, sturdy, light-coloured, maybe netted, trash can, and place it right under the kitchen sink, like all Indian women usually do at home.

Subiksha has helped 113 transpersons in getting TNUHDB houses 
Subiksha has helped 113 transpersons in getting TNUHDB houses 

She was self-assured that she would get up every morning and dispose of the garbage and return with an empty bin in hand. Because this was Shobana’s home; something she was deprived of for years due to her being a trans woman. Societal disapproval for trans women manifested as a cruel denial of accommodation, or being asked to pay exorbitant rates for one. Finally, in her own house, the 43-year-old says she can finally start saving up for old age.

Shobana is one of the 113 trans persons who were provided housing under the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board scheme. This journey to actually procure welfare assistance, however, was a movement spearheaded by S Subiksha, another trans woman. The 41-year-old was born to daily wage labourers at Kangeyam, Tiruppur. After she came out, her family supported her, but society did not. Heartbroken Subiksha left home when she was in Class 10.

At that tender age, Subiksha resorted to sex work for a living. From 1999 to 2013, she worked in Mumbai and Bangalore, where she came across several other women with similar backstories. “Majority of trans persons suffer due to delay in undergoing gender reassignment surgery (GRS) since it costs a minimum of Rs 1.5 lakh. Even after the surgery, trans persons need to rest for a minimum of 41 days. Since most trans persons are boycotted by their own families, they exit their homes, with no financial support, and get involved in sex work to save up for GRS,” Subiksha tells TNIE.

Subiksha would guide fellow trans persons to look for opportunities through government schemes that would not compel them to take up sex work. In 2016, she established the My Society Trust in Coimbatore. “Tamil Nadu is a pioneer state in bringing welfare schemes for the transgender community. Then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi brought schemes including a welfare board for trans persons in 2008, loan assistance of Rs 50,000 and housing facilities. To utilise these opportunities, we organised our members and put forth applications for houses from 2016,” she says.

Subiksha assisted each applicant in getting the necessary certificates, and 113 trans persons have houses to their names today. It was the first time a considerable number from the transgender community have benefited from getting houses under the scheme. Despite the district administration’s approval of the 113 beneficiaries in 2018, they could not enter the flats till 2022 following opposition from existing residents. Subiksha travelled to Chennai to meet higher officials and finally, their dream was realised last August. 

P Shobana from Kerala is among the beneficiaries. She works as a cook in hotels and had spent Rs 6,000 for rent at Telungupalayam, in Coimbatore. “I was worried about how I would manage in my old age without savings, this flat comes as a big relief.” Subiksha’s My Society Trust also helped the beneficiaries save up to Rs 1.98 lakh, which is the amount to be paid for a house in a multi-storeyed buildings. They undertook chit-funds specifically for the trans community.

Subiksha has also helped 63 other trans persons in availing loans under the government scheme for transgenders in 2023-2024.

(Edited by Shrija Ganguly)

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