–Kakali Das |
During the Covid-19 lockdown period, the transgender community went through, perhaps, the worst of it. Obviously, the ability to earn, to access medical help, the ability to feed themselves, to be themselves were disrupted like everybody else. Even within the quarantine facilities in the hospitals, there was an intersection of discrimination between the heterosexual and the transgender people who were infected by the virus. We, as a society, could have a done a better job or should have thought for our brothers and sisters in the transgender community.
With regard to these trying times, we have been receiving a mountain of stories about the adversities that have been encountered by the societies, especially the transgender society as opposed to the pre-Covid19 times. Discrimination and bigotry persists as the facilities required by the transgender community are not being dispensed. In terms of the medical facility people are expected to be treated as one, as a human being; especially a transgender person, who might not be infected by the virus but in need of some other requirements, has also been deprived and discriminated since they identify themselves as the transgender people. The biggest challenge that the members of the community have to undergo is a phase that is not just restricted to starvation in this pandemic but also with regards to their transition – be it going through their Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), laser treatments or anything that has some connections with their sex transition surgery. It is also significant to focus that the majority of the members particularly from the ‘LGBTQ’ community who are engaged into commercial sex working and have been begging for their survival are not being able to earn for their living, as a result of which the people of this community who are surviving with HIV or other STDs are not being able to get hold of the appropriate nutritional supplements that are essential for their survival.
Nistha Nishant, a transwoman and Scientific Researcher said, “We feel to give them their basic needs, the conditions they live in – the hygiene conditions, proper accommodation. In spite of being deprived of a proper accommodation they have been surviving, no matter whichever corner of the society the people are allowing them to be”.
Challenges are not merely restricted to that; even when they feel that there is a need for them to approach the medical authorities, the confusion arises as to which ward they should be put into. Naturally transwomen won’t be comfortable in going into a men’s ward,so the authorities do not give much consideration towards allowing them to go to the women’s ward and eventually end up being thrashed outside the ward or washroom, to the places they really don’t want to be in. Discrimination is on the mass of transgenders and it really needs to be addressed. There was a provision made by the National Institute of Social Defence (NISD) and they made arrangements of providing two thousand rupees to per transgender individual which somehow didn’t cover everyone from the transgender community, especially when the provision was to provide identity proof (ID) online. A lot of people aren’t very well equipped to the new normal or the digital world. All they can do is handle their social media accounts which is very easily accessible on their cell-phones, but when it comes to filling up of forms online, where they have challenges with education and other facilities, it gets difficult for the members of the community to approach people who can actually help them fill these requirements. Due to these limitations, people could not get hold of the benefits in terms of the monetary help that was provided by the government of India. There are still a lot of people hoping that someday they would get that help but the hopes remain unfulfilled somehow.
Vihaan Vee, a transman, A Programme Manager, Nazariya/ A Queer Feminist Resource Group said, “It was not only because of the intolerance and ignorance of medical facilities that they were not able to go out and fulfil their testosterone hormone requirements or other medicines in this lockdown period but also because they have missed their livelihood. If they don’t have any sources to earn it is not possible for them to have that kind of money to take such hormones or HRT. HRT not only have an impact on their bodiesbut also on their mental health as well and hence, it is always important to connect with an Endocrinologist along with a mental health professional or a counsellor”.
Mental health is a rising crisis and the people of the LGBTQ community are at the receiving end of it. With lots of stigma, mis-conceptions and people having to go back to their families who make them suffer instead of living with the families of their choices, the people of this community have been pressurised and pushed into situations where they feel like harming themselves and ending their lives than fighting for it. To go through that trauma isn’t easy and not everybody is strong enough to survive and look at themselves with a growing beard on their faces due to the lack of treatment. The Programme Managerfurther said that the NGO had received uncountable distress calls related to the mental health issues out of being unable to undergo HRT, domestic violence caused by their families, the constant mis-gendering, comments on their dress-codes, behaviours, their acts etc. Excessive surveillance, moral policing in the families have made their lives a living hell during this lockdown. Recently we have come across many suicide cases of the people belonging to the Queer Community in places like Assam, Kerala and nobody including the mainstream media gave bouts of attention to such news.
There a many organisations that are taking a step forward for transgender empowerment at workplace – Transgender Welfare Equity and Empowerment Trust (TWEET) Foundation which works for trans empowerment, PeriFerry in Tamil Nadu, Humsafar Trust in Mumbai where they consider hiring transgenders at various corporate sectors.
But the issue comes when people do not give them what they really deserve. For instance, a lot of organisations want to thrust the trans community at the lower level of work – be it working as a helping staff or so on. But a lot of transgender people are too well educated or they have the capabilities or potential to work at higher positions or levels in the society and even work for the development of the concerned organisations. IT sectors have been trying to become inclusive to a much extent. Considering the current times, it is utmost important to not thrust a particular person into a box according to our convenience. Let us all look at each one of us as human beings, talk to them and not exploit them on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Everything is a part of our education. We have not been taught in our schools properly; we have to allow teachers to be more sensitive, more caring and try to be the better version of us and I believe that the people are much more sensitive than our government. We had witnessed how during the lockdown, while the migrants were working, a lot of the citizens came out and distributed ration, went out and helped. We need to also educate the people about the different communities who are in need of that help and the transgender community is one of them. It’s not just about ration or food, sometimes it’s about extending just a shoulder for the person, to listen to, to understand the hardships they are surviving with. If you know of a transgender person, in your neighbourhood, your extended family, reach out to them, ask them if they need anything, communicate and try to understand them. A lot of times, merely a sensitive listening ear can make a world of difference to all human beings. So we must find a way to help, to take the people under our wings and lend our strengths to comfort them.