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Violence in the name of Protection: A Bahujan Transman on the Transgender Bill 2018
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Violence in the name of Protection: A Bahujan Transman on the Transgender Bill 2018

transgender bill 2018

 

Vihaan V

Recently, I appeared for the NET/JRF exam. While entering the NET Centre the Security person and the representatives from University Grants Commission (UGC) asked me to remove my jacket. I am a transman who has a lot of dysphoria and am not comfortable with my body. Hence, I cannot be without my jacket. I tried to convince them by saying that I was uncomfortable removing my jacket and requested them to allow me to enter the exam centre but they still asked me to remove the jacket. I was not able to convince them so I was forced to out myself by telling them that I have dysphoria and I am a transman. I revealed that I am extremely uncomfortable with my body and not able to write my exam without the jacket. They asked me to show my ID card and said that my identity card didn’t have any proof that I was trans. I became very irritated and felt violated. I was reduced to tears and stated that I will not give the exam and asked for permission to leave the centre. Finally, they allowed me to go to an exam hall. I had a lot of dysphoria because of this triggering conversation so I started to look for a washroom to go and cry and be comfortable to write the exam because I couldn’t express my discomfort in front of everyone. I had to use the women’s washroom and it caused more dysphoria and violence.

transgender bill 2018

For me, this exam was very important because my family will not support me anymore as they can’t afford to, due to our socio-economic condition. I had constantly faced the pressure of conforming to my assigned gender since my childhood. I was forced to grow my hair and wear traditional feminine clothes. I am 22 years old and in my village people have started talking about my marriage and gender non-conforming dressing style. Due to this, I face the constant pressure of marriage from my family. I really want to do my Ph.D. JRF was essential for my survival and future independence and is perhaps the only way to escape the pressure of my family. I know that most transgender people coming from Dalit Bahujan Adivasi background can’t afford to get their documentation done or have the privilege to talk about their gender identity. Through this incident, I want to highlight that the Transgender Bill which was passed in the Lok Sabha this year is going to affect my life in a big way. This Transgender Bill contradicts the NALSA Judgement 2014 regarding self-determination of gender identity. This Bill instead of addressing adequately the institutional marginalisation in everyday life, which was clearly visible in the above incident, is actually reinforcing.

I come from a Bahujan family from a rural area and cannot afford to have the surgery or medical transition at this point of time and don’t know if it will be possible for me to do it in the future. This Bill states that there will be a district level screening committee which will decide if I am transgender or not. Why should the screening committee decide my gender or my identity? Navigating this screening committee to get the needed certificate will cause me even more violence. Why is there a Committee that only decides the gender of us trans persons but there is no similar committee for cis heterosexual people. Another question that arises is that, who can afford to find a lawyer and do this process? It will be very tough for DBA folks like me. Accessing the District committee in the absence of any support from the family will become doubly burdensome. This will cause more violence from the natal family. If I get the certificate from going through all this violence it will keep me in the category of transgender. It will not allow me to have my documentation as a man. This transgender box may cause me a lot of violence. It will cause me not only mental violence but also physical violence. Public spaces like washrooms, public transport like train, in fact every place in which there is gender segregation I will have to face violence.

This Bill hasn’t looked at the medical care aspect for trans persons. The Bill has no provision to ensure free access to gender-affirming procedures and full insurance cover, instead, the surgery is seen as cosmetic surgery. This medical surgery must also be available in government hospitals. Also, the freedom to choose Male/Female/separate wards for trans people in hospitals must be made available. Persons from marginalised social locations like Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi people will not be able to afford gender-affirming surgery. People facing violence from the family will also not be able to afford this surgery.

The Bill also states that families which are not able to take care of trans children will be sent to the rehabilitation centre by the government. This normalizes the violence from the family and takes away the right to freedom of residence. The definition of rehabilitation is “the action of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy after imprisonment, addiction, or illness”. This seems to me like conversion therapy. Clearly, our very being as trans individuals is being pathologised by the government and we are seen as someone who has to be made ‘normal’. Having lived in this transphobic society for the last 22 years, I can firmly state that trans persons do not need this normativity enforced on them by the government. All we need is our rights.

I am at least able to talk and write about it because of the privilege to be in the sphere of higher education and have the access to all this information. Many people like me are every day dying and/ or facing a lot of violence from the natal family as well as society. As a female-assigned person from Bahujan background, I face all the violence and discrimination faced by Bahujan women which is made worse by my trans identity, causing even more violence and oppression. This triple marginalisation and violence are not recognised by the state in its refusal to provide reservations for trans persons in education and employment while criminalising alternative livelihood options such as begging. This Bill is not going to reduce violence or discrimination faced by people like me but it is clearly violating our rights in the name of granting them to us.

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Vihaan is a transman who is pursing his post graduation. He is a Queer Ambedkarite Feminist.

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