Over the years, there have been various efforts on the part of the State Government to integrate members of the transgender community into mainstream society. While nearly 10 years ago, the then Jayalalithaa Government, in a path-breaking initiative issued appointment to transgenders in State government departments, around four years ago, the then DMK regime allowed transgenders to enter colleges under the ‘Third Gender’ category.
In Coimbatore too, the district administration and banks have taken measures to uplift the transgenders. “We have as many as 30 self help groups (SHGs) in our branch that are operated by members of the transgender community,” says S Meenambiki, Branch Manager, Coimbatore District Central Cooperative Bank.
According to her, initially only two SHGs were formed and later when they did extremely well many more decided to come forward.
“Everyone hesitated to disburse loans to them as they feared that the transgenders would not be able to repay the money. But they proved everyone wrong by promptly paying back the loans. The bank has never faced a problem because of them,” she explains.
Meenambiki says the transgenders, have in fact, set an example for others who default on loan repayment. “We should be giving them recognition as many of them are talented and it is important to bring them into the mainstream,” she adds.
V Lata, Assistant Project Officer, Women Development, says, transgenders are being trained to improve their skills and they are taking keen interest in a host of diverse activities like cooking, driving and other mechanical activities. This is helping them to get out of illegal activities and gradually earn due recognition in the society. In Coimbatore, a group of transgenders have set up a popular biriyani catering service.
“Over a period people accepted us,” says 55-year-old Rajammal, one of the chefs at this catering service. They even travel to Karnataka and Kerala to prepare biriyani on order.
Coimbatore Collector M Karunagaran says recently, pattas were handed over to 30 transgenders near Mettupalayam as they were finding it difficult to rent. The government has now reduced the age limit for the transgenders for old age pension and they start to receive the money at 40 years of age. G Gayatri, president, Coimbatore Transgenders’ Association, says the community members are also involved in other social activities like distributing free food to poor people, encouraging children to study in schools, nutrition needs and health issues. This has helped the transgenders to get a lot of recognition.