PERAMBALUR: More than a month after mysterious signboards carrying ‘Respect LGBTQ’ message cropped up across multiple locations in Peramblur town, the man behind the initiative has come out of the shadows.
“I wanted to create awareness about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community. People wouldn’t have taken much interest in a regular awareness programme or initiative. The idea was that the mystery should drive them to look up the acronym and learn more about the community,” Perambalur Superintendent of Police S Mani told TNIE on Tuesday.
The top cop had installed four signboards at Palakarai, Kamarajar Valaivu, and near old and new bus stand areas to trigger people’s curiosity and buzz around the strange board with a uniform, solitary message. The words embossed on the reflective boards would shine when vehicles’ light falls on them. “Only Iceland has such boards and now us,” Mani claimed.
He had used leftover cash from Road Safety Fund to put up the signs and said the boards are just a small step towards eliminating prejudice against the community, particularly transpersons. “Transpersons are improving their lives with the government’s recognition and support,” he said.
‘Trans community still faces lot of hate’
“They are given reservation, priority in employment and other benefits. However, the community still faces a lot of hate,” he said. “The community has gender equality under Article 15 of the Constitution. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was also passed in 2019. Yet, there are a lot of people who are still unaware of all these. Many people only see transpersons as thieves and prostitutes and this generalisation is wrong,” he stressed.
Not only have members of public taken note of the boards but some have even reached out to Mani to congratulate him on the effort. “A few government officials took note and appreciated me. This does not end here. We also plan to add the signs to highway blinkers so that baby steps towards changes are taken,” Mani said. After seeing the board, P Manisha, a transperson in Perambalur said she was happy to see it.
“I thank those who put it up. It is enough if people realise through the board that the LGBTQ community is here. The administration should give us permission to run a shop in the areas where the boards are put up and encourage them,” she said.
Manisha added that communication was often a problem from both sides. “Problems are not likely to come if people interacted with members of the community more,” she said. Lauding the effort, D Vignesh, a third-year queer medical student in the town, said, “A transperson who saw the board, ran a shop under it for a few days. I thought it was a victory for the community. I shared it with my friends on social media,” he said.
Vignesh added that he hopes people will learn from the boards. "The board comes as a comfort when transpersons have nothing. Even though transgender persons are educated, they still face problems. Many still find it difficult to enrol in schools. Many drop out of schools and colleges due to harassment. Authorities need to provide gender-neutral bathroom in schools and colleges," he added.