For most people, filling out forms and declaring ones gender is never a problem, it’s just a part of everyday life. That is unless you are transgender. Most governments the world over refuse transgender people the right to label themselves as their preferred gender until they have undergone sex reassignment surgery, leaving them with the previous unwanted gender in an unforgiving society. Some countries do not even allow a birth certificate change after surgery. It is confusing and can tear the person apart emotionally. And lets not even mention the problems that can be encountered when travelling overseas and dealing with the law.
Transgender people in Tamil Nadu in Chennai, India can finally breathe a sigh of relief. They have now been granted the choice to choose “T” instead of the standard male and female. This now allows the estimated 40,000 people who identify as transgender in Chennai to legally be in a slightly better position as the government rolls out the new plans. Transgender people are now able to identify as a third gender when applying for ration cards and welfare schemes without emotional trauma or embarrassment.
“It’s a move to support these marginalised people. They exist and we cannot ignore them. We have to accept them as third gender,” explained social welfare minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna, a gynaecologist herself.
The government have not as yet gone as far as allowing transgender people the right to change their passports and voter identity cards as this will take time and much discussion on policy reform. Nevertheless it is a fantastic victory for transgender people and hopefully a strong foundation to build upon.
Alana Rosenbaum is India’s first transgender TV talk show host. She has praised the new laws today saying, “Hinduism, India’s majority religion, gives hijras (transsexuals) a God-like status. Frequently they’re invited to dance at weddings and celebrations marking the arrival of a first-born. Many believe they curse guests who don’t offer tips. Yet despite their ritual significance, hijras are among the most socially disadvantaged group in India. Ostracised by their families, many organise themselves into communities, which rely on begging. In big cities, it’s not uncommon to see sari-clad hijras panhandling. Sex work is also a major source of income, and rates of HIV among hijras are disproportionately high.”
Today also in Genesee Valley, New York, the gay alliance announced the passing of GENDA, the Gender Non-Discrimination Act by a vote of 103-33. The bill bans discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, credit, and public accommodations. The bill was made necessary when language protecting the rights of transgender people was stripped from the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in 2002.
Worldwide governments are having to buckle under the mounting pressure to protect transgender people as our numbers continue to grow and as we become more visible in mainstream society. The lack of inclusion of transgender people in regards to recent GLBT anti-discrimination laws has been long overlooked, so any moves to rectify this problem would be welcomed by the transgender community with open arms.