A community that had been cast-out from society is now rising up and making themselves felt. When we hear the term “Hijra” or “Transgender”, one basic thought that creeps our mind is all the vices associated with the community. I vividly remember from when I was a kid, I used to see these people on signals or buses, asking for money. In the past, the Trans community has gathered a lot of hatred. People used to consider them as vulgar and ill-mannered. The community has faced a lot of discrimination from the society. They had to face discrimination in educational institutions,while seeking out Employment and Healthcare Services and a decent standard of living.
Indian culture made it hard for transgender to survive in the society. With no respect, unemployment and poor standard of living, this community was living under the shadow. Nonetheless, the third gender of India with their grit and conviction are now overcoming hate despite discrimination and emerging as foremost in their fields. Slowly and steadily all the barriers are breaking and taboos related to trans community are fading away. Now we are witnessing the trans community rising above all those taboos and taking a stand for themselves.
A few months back, Noida Metro Rail Corporation decided to dedicate Noida sector 50’s metro station to the transgender community. At first, the metro station was named as ‘Aqua Line’, which was later changed to ‘She Man’. According to NMRC officials, the station will provide “Special facilities and job employment” to the member of this community so that they get a chance to connect with the mainstream. Ms. Maheswari who is the CEO of Noida authority said, “This initiative has been taken to uplift and provide employment to the transgender community. As per census 2011, there are 4.9 lakh transgender in India out of which 30,000-35,000 stay in NCR. The move will be an important step in providing meaningful inclusion and participation of the transgender community. Like this there are so many other opportunities which are being developed to help this community to settle in the mainstream society.”
In April 2014, India’s Supreme Court recognized transgender rights by officially recognizing them as a third gender which gave relief to an estimated 3 million people in India.
It’s now 2 years since 6th September 2018 when in a historic judgment a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and decriminalized consensual same sex relations. In June 2019, India celebrated International Pride Month for the very first time.The movement had been driven by transgender activists, sex worker activists, lawyers and organisations. For the first time in years, people belonging to the trans community came out in public with full confidence and celebrated their existence in the society.
There are various people in trans community who have now made their place in the society and gained basic dignity. One among them is ‘Laxmi Narayan Tripathi’.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a transgender rights activist and Bharatanatyam dancer from Mumbai. In 2008, she became the first transperson to represent Asia Pacific at the UN. She was born in Malti Bai Hospital on 13th Dec 1978, in Thane. Laxmi, who was born as a male member and was the eldest child born into an orthodox Brahmin family. Talking about her scarred childhood, she once mentioned, “I was sexually abused by someone who was a part of our family. It was difficult for me to even go to school and college. People use to call me ‘Chakka’ ‘Gur’ and what not. It was very upsetting and every man who came into my life, abused me.”
In 2007, she started her own organization ‘Astitiva’ for the welfare of trans community. As a transgender rights activist, she is also the founder of ‘The Kinnar Akhada’. In 2016, for the first time in history, a transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi was appointed as the head priestess of the congregation. Talking about the 2014 Indian Supreme Court verdict on transgender, she says that the verdict by supreme court has aimed at restoring the lost dignity of transgender people in the society. She also mentions that biggest obstacle in making the community more visible is lack of inclusion. She said, “Policy makers can’t sit in rooms and decide policies for the transgender community without us”.
According to Hindu mythology When Lord Rama, hero of the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana, returned to the city of Ayodhya after 14 years in exile, he found a crowd of transgender people waiting for him on the banks of the river Tamsa. They had ignored Lord Rama’s order to his male and female followers to not wait, as they considered themselves neither. Taken by their devotion, he blessed them, elevating them to ‘Demigods’.
Laxmi said, “I am the first priestess of the first ever transgender congregation of a religious space, a convent of the vedic sanatan religion that is called as ‘Hinduism’. We decided in 2015 to reclaim our lost position in religion because religion plays a vital role in any society and in the Hindu religion we are considered as ‘Demigods’.” According to her the word ‘Hijra’ is divided into two parts ‘Hij’ and ‘Ra’, a person who adopts a gender role that is neither traditionally male nor traditionally female. She also says that in India transgender are generally known as ‘Kinnar’ and the trans community is the oldest ethnic transgender community in the world.
In 2002, she became the president of NGO DAI Welfare Society, the first registered and working organization for eunuchs in South Asia. Laxmi is a famous face when it comes to transgender rights. She frequently appears for interviews in media representing LGBT community. She is also a famous face in T.V reality shows. She had participated in ‘Big Boss’ Season 5. She had aslo starred in ‘Sach ka samna’ with Rajeev Khandelval, ‘10 Ka Dum’ with Salman Khan and ‘Raaz Pichle Janam ka’. Laxmi starred in an award-winning documentary in 2005, ‘Between the Lines: India’s Third Gender’
In a panel discussion Laxmi quoted, “For transwomen, it’s like we are toys in the hands of patriarchy. One is molested and insulted. Courts even say that it is impossible that you are being molested. On the ground, still it’s the same old story. Still there are people calling a trans ‘Chakka’, ‘Gur’, ‘Hijra’ though ‘Hijra’ is a respectable word however now it has taken a shape of complete bad word. There is so much of violence. “
She says that in her community she has seen thousands of ‘Nirbhaya’, by which one can only imagine the brutality with which they had been raped and killed and the most disturbing part is that after all this, they are not even considered as human beings.