Feminism India

The Social Costs of Progressiveness

“It isn’t about 'becoming' another person - I already am who I am - I just want my body to reflect that. It is not like I am suddenly changing from the person you have always known- this is more about your willingness to see who I have always been” - Cooper Lee Bombardier

I am from a land where all major manifestations of God is in the form* of women. A land where we shout out ‘Jai mata di’, bow our heads in front of the goddess and disrespect women all at the same time. A land where respect towards ideas like Narishakthi and Ardhanareeshwaran are limited to mythology and spirituality. A unique space where deep-rooted prejudice conflicts with principled textbook religion.

The opening of the Kochi metro to a thunderous national applause garnered attention to its policy of hiring transgenders. This made it the first metro to have on station transgender staff. A policy sending tremors across a state still hesitant to accept all gender binaries. The news coming in months after the opening of the first transgender school in India in Kochi, organically put Kerala on the map for its openness to all gender binaries and moreover for its proactive empowerment of the same. But how the story further unfolded is a tale of despair and societal discrimination and prejudice. With nine of the employed transgenders quitting within a week due to issues relating to accommodation and societal acceptance, the policy’s essence has faded away into a deep state of societal blindness. The social miasma in accepting and taking transgenders into their fold has led to the hired staff quitting over primary issues like accommodation in a metropolitan city is something rather shameful for the state as a whole. A shameful reluctance in accepting all gender binaries as human beings with the same needs, desires and aspirations. House owners are hesitant in letting their property to these staff. What makes it worse is how many fear being stigmatised on account of having transgenders in their houses as paying guests and tenants. It has put the authorities in a flux and has led them to think along the lines of even state-sponsored accommodation. As an employee herself commented, “The social cost of our appointment is very high”.

If closely thought about, the issue is just a superficial outbreak due to a fissure burning deep in the moral alchemy of our society. This is just a clear case of how an uplifting policy led to further chaos. It's also a first-class example for the need of holistic approaches in policy and law making. Here, a government level policy to incorporate sidelined gender binaries to the forefront resulted in a mesh of socio-cultural issues resulting in the total failure of the measure. It is of time to analyse and rectify the societal concerns surrounding sexes considered ‘away’ from the norm. In many places across India, incidents were reported of how people got thrown out from their offices and schools on revealing their actual identity. I fail to understand how the value added by a person to a professional or public space reduces with their gender identity. If a person could contribute effectively in a work space prior to revealing his sexual identity, how would it go down and even be detrimental enough to fire the person once he/she reveals it? Does a person’s sexual identity organically determine his organic work capacity and value addition to the society? Even if it does, isn’t peaceful coexistence the basic underlying principle fuelling the world?

Like all people believing in a peaceful existence, I finish with a clichéd statement - “High time people.High time!”