Debunking misconception about transgender/transsexuality !

Recently India became the seventh country to recognise the third gender status to individuals who do not fit into the two gender binary. Six other countries namely, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Germany, Australia and New Zealand had already recognised the issue of third gender or ambiguous gender with administrative processes in place to provide better accountability and inclusion into the national decision making process and developmental policy and programmes. However, many popular myth or misconceptions about transgender upon which they are othered, marginalised and most importantly appropriated still inhabits the mind of the masses which also keeps making a round and exhibits itself in public places and forum. The question is how long will the people and the leaders keep on appropriating the trans identity in their mind when they know that they know almost nothing at all about trans sensibilities? How long will we unconsciously allow such appropriation to go on, even ourselves indulging in it? When will we feel ashamed of being an agent of such a distortion of a persons identity and creating unnecessary stigma?

transwhat.org: a guide towards allyship, is a website offering a hand to hand guide towards debunking misconceptions about transgender/transsexuality and towards better understanding of trans sensibilities. The following page in the website offers an insight into a few misconception about the gender and sexual identity of a trans person. 

http://transwhat.org/debunked/

Trans Queens make a fashionable statement against 377 and the recent verdict by SC in the recent Trans Queen Contest in Imphal, Manipur !

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In a Trans Queen Contest called ‘Solidarity Event’ held on 13th of December in Imphal, the capital of the north eastern state of Manipur, India, several trans queen who were participating in the competition walked the ramp holding placards condemning the verdict of the SC, uphelding the archaic and colonial law viz., section 377 of Indian Penal Code that criminalises ‘unnatural’ sexual acts between consenting adults whereby ‘natural’ is defined and limited to male-female and penile-vaginal sex thereby rendering same-sex sexual act a criminal offence. The event was organised by All Manipur Nupi-Maanbi Association (AMANA) and Solidarity and Action Against the HIV infection in India (SAARHI). The event was supported by Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MACS), American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and Alliance India.

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Manipur state has a significant visible presence of male to female (trans-woman) as well as female to male (trans-man) transgenders. Male to female transgenders have a significant cultural presence and recognition as a part of a traditional form of theatre called Sumang Lila in which the female characters in the drama piece are played by men impersonating women while female to male transgenders form a large part of the home-guard as well as constable services in the state police force. All Manipur Nupi-Maanbi Association is a collective of many male to female transgenders across the state. Though sumang lila is still a very vibrant, celebrated and popular form of art and entertainment in the state and has been a source of income, dignity and a social space for many talented trans-woman whereby they are accepted in the way they prefer to be, however it cannot provide such a space to every trans-woman in the community. Also despite the acknowledgement of transgender artist seen in the parts of the culture there, the society is not wholly tolerant and acceptable of such deviance in sexuality and gender construction or identification. The locals refer to transwoman as ‘Homo’ an extraction from the word ‘homosexual’ or ‘homosexuality’. Though the tag ‘homo’ reflects a certain influence from the discourse around homosexuality in the West, however this conflation of transgender with homosexuality reflects a lack of a more nuanced and deeper understanding of both the community and constructions. Although the word ‘homo’ has become a part of the dialect there but the way it is understood or rather the meaning ascribed to it is only reflexive of and limited to a sense of othering or tagging the transgenders as ‘different’. The lives of the homos or nupi-maanbi’s (as the trans-woman would prefer to call themselves) in Manipur is also characterised by similar violence as seen in the lives of transgenders and Queers all over the world viz., public harassments and shaming; indifference towards their ideas and choices and coercion towards becoming a cis-gendered individual from family and in public institutions; no formal job opportunities so on and so forth.

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Another popular trend in the lives of male bodied gender queers in the state is their dominance in the industry of beauty services such as bridal make-up, beauty parlours, movie make-ups, etc. The beauty industry is one of the major sources of income for trans-woman as individual and of the community. However there is also another side to this story whereby if one have to come out and identify as a transgender then the society has a tendency to limit one’s potential and ambition only within the beauty industry. Similarly in case of the female to male transgender, there is a societal tendency to limit their job opportunities only in the field of home-guard and constable services. Here I would like to mention that the Winner of the Trans Queen Contest is a student pursuing studies in medicine from Regional Institute of Medical Sciences in the state. One of the intrinsic struggle for people in the trans community and for people and organisations working with trans concerns at Manipur is to facilitate ways in which trans individual will be able to step out of such limited construction of their identity and way of life and to make changes in the general awareness and set up in the society to cater to such a change.

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Another thing to be noted is that public harassment towards the trans-man are significantly less – almost negligible compared to the case of a trans-woman, but the indifference to their way of life is still very prominent among the locals.  More often a trans-man is treated with respect and fear despite the general indifference towards his way of being. This could be said to reflect a certain bias in the society towards a process of transgressing gender. A male who wants to become a female is more humiliating then a woman wanting to become a man. A trans-woman because of its feminine aspirations is devalued whereas the masculine aspiration in the trans-man faces very little shaming or harassment. The trans males for their sheer identification as women – the so called ‘inferior’ gender, their transgression is perceived as a low aspirations whereas the trans male are treated with respect and feared for their masculine aspirations.

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Though this history of queer individuals in the state is changing and will continue to do so. The recent Trans Queen Contest and the way it was received by the public and also Imphal being one of the places where people in large number and from every age group observed the global day of rage protest against 377 provides hope for certain changes in the society of the region whereby people are becoming more and more willing to accept differences and to be able to look at each other from the lens of human rights rather than a limited, narrow and violent lens of patriarchal gender and sexual categorisation.

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The photographs in the blog was taken by Nandini Thokchom and Arbind Sorokhaibam, who are human rights activist based in Imphal and one of the prominent voices among the very few individuals and organisation along with the transgenders who is working in the state for equal opportunity and the dignity for the transgenders as any other cis-gendered citizen of the country.

For other/more pictures of the Trans Queen Contest, please visit :

http://www.e-pao.net/epGallery.asp?id=1&src=Miss_Competition/MissTransGender20131213_1

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Black Day for Human Rights, Queer Rights – press release by Voices Against 377

Black Day for Human Rights, Queer Rights

We are deeply disappointed at the decision of the Supreme Court in Suresh Kumar Kaushal v. Naz Foundation. The decision by overturning the historic Delhi High Court judgment which recognized that LGBT persons are full citizens of India, attempts to stem the tide of history. By overturning the Naz Foundation judgment, the Supreme Court has, in one fell stroke again reduced LGBT persons to the status of what the Delhi High Court memorably called ‘unapprehended felons’. The judgment of the Supreme Court is a unconscionable blow to the dignity of LGBT persons who as per the Indian Constitution are entitled to equal treatment. It withdraws the protective arm of the constitution from LGBT persons and renders LGBT persons vulnerable to discrimination, violence and harassment.

It is a tragedy that this judgment forgets the vision of the founders of the Indian republic which was so eloquently captured by the Delhi High Court. By re-criminalizing LGBT persons the judgment ignores the spirit of inclusiveness which is the heart of the Indian Constitution as articulated by Jawaharlal Nehru. It equally abandons the principle of constitutional morality (ie majorities dont have a charter to discriminate against minorities purely because they are majorities) articulated by Dr. Ambedkar which is the cornerstone of a diverse and plural nation.

The judgment is thus a deep betrayal of the fundamental constitutional promise that the dignity of all citizens would be recognized and that equal treatment is a non negotiable element of the world’s largest democracy. In this betrayal of constitutional faith, the Court has shredded the very principles it has sworn itself to uphold.

This decision today along with the decisions upholding the emergency and legitimizing rape marks the lowest ebb in the illustrious history of the Supreme Court. In 1975 in ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, the Supreme Court upheld the declaration of emergency which deprived all citizens of the right to life in India. In 1979, in Mathuras case, the Supreme Court in effect declared that women who were raped should be disbelieved. In 2013 the Supreme Court has held that LGBT persons are not human beings whose dignity and life is violated by a colonial law.

Hard as this decision is and difficult as the road forward may be, we draw strength and inspiration from ordinary LGBT persons who will not allow this to affect the way they lead their lives. In the course of the last ten years or so, LGBT persons have begun to lead their lives openly and publicly proclaiming their claim to equal citizenship. The page of history has turned and no power on earth can deny LGBT persons the right to freedom, equality and dignity. Rights are not conferred by the Court, as the Naz judgment said, they are merely confirmed by them. The rights of LGBT persons cannot be taken by this decision.

We proclaim that in spite of the judgment of the Supreme Court, the only way the LGBT movement will go is forward and the arc of history though long will turn towards justice. We pledge to continue this struggle with re doubled vigour till such time that Section 377 is consigned to where it belongs- the dustbins of history.

11.12.2013, New Delhi

Issued by: Voices Against 377, Alternative Law Forum, Adhikaar and other petitioners including parents of LGBT persons, mental health professionals, academics and law professors.

Contact: Arvind 9980010933, Deepti 9899019750, Gautam, 9953951219, Rituparna 9999977272

Transgenders to be inducted into Tamil Nadu Homeguard service – Madurai District Police.

A key concern in a transgenders struggle for autonomy, rights and dignity is a fight for accountability – be it social, familial, financial etc. A patriarchal society is based on a binary division of gender through which it assorts gender roles and the respective social, familial, national, etc., accountability of each gender. Transgenders are a problem for such a system of categorisation of human, infact transgenders problematise such a categorisation. What is problematic is the rigidity of patriarchy in its own ideological belief system such that the lack of a system to account for transgender in patriarchy is overlooked and infact turned towards the transgenders whereby transgenders are projected as unnatural and as a social problem. A step towards a more egalitarian society means breaking down the patriarchal construct existing in the society and acknowledging the limits of patriarchy and understanding how that limit creates social inequities. Which in case of transgenders means that the society have to undo the stigma and stereotype that it has created upon and around transgenders; take up efforts to realise and acknowledge the credibility and accountability that a transgender individual embodies and to provide a space in the society and the world for these potential to grow and develop with dignity.

A step by Madurai district police to start inducting transgender into its service is a recommendable step towards creating a world whereby the potentials of a transgender will be fully realised and acknowledged in order to restore dignity to the life of a transgender.

Read more at:

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/transgenders-to-be-inducted-as-home-guards/article5454186.ece

Law can’t remain static: Government told SC that Section 377 didn’t reflect Indian values – The Attorney General of India.

I belong to the school of thought which believes that an Attorney General must be heard in court and not outside it. However, there comes a time when an exception has to be made. I believe this is one such time. Given the importance of the matter and widespread anguish and heartache across the country, i feel that i must depart from this self-limitation to set the record straight and to explain the stand taken by the government in the Section 377 case.

The Delhi high court’s judgment was delivered in 2009. The hearing in the Delhi high court itself had a chequered history. The Supreme Court had sent the matter back to the high court for consideration on merits and the judgment finally came in 2009. Thereafter, the matter reached the Supreme Court. The hearing concluded in March 2012. Judgment remained reserved for a long time. Finally, when it was delivered on Wednesday, the intensity of reaction was directly proportionate to the length of time the consideration took.

The law minister in a res-trained reaction stated that the Supreme Court has given its judgment and Parliament will consider the matter and perform its duty.

It’s not my intention to comment on the judgment. A lot has already been said. A lot more can be said. However, i need to clarify the stand of the government of India and the stand we took in the Supreme Court.

When Delhi high court’s judgment was delivered, there were strong views even within government, as could be expec-ted. Notwithstanding this, the Group of Ministers had recommended that there did not appear to be any legal error in the judgment. The cabinet accepted the recommendations. An affidavit was filed on March 1, 2012 by the home secretary reiterating the recommendations and the fact that the cabinet had accepted these.

In my written submissions, therefore, i clearly and categorically stated: “Accordingly, it is submitted that the government of India does not find any legal error in the judgment of the high court and accepts the correctness of the same. This is also clear from the fact that it has not filed any appeal against the judgment of the high court.”

The cabinet at its meeting held on September 17, 2009 had said that the Attorney General of India would assist the court in arriving at an opinion on correctness of the high court’s judgment. Initially, i was unable to attend the hearing. There was considerable confusion because a law officer who had appeared in Delhi high court supporting Section 377 of IPC and its validity, reiterated that stand. When this happened, there was outrage. The then home minister was furious. Home ministry said that submissions had been made without their instructions. Immediately, another law officer corrected the position. That is how the affidavit dated March 1, 2012 came to be filed.

The court requested me to appear. I did. Whilst making submissions which i have quo-ted above, i also mentioned the social background in which Section 377 was enacted.

I referred to a book written by Lawrence James, Raj: The making and unmaking of British India. James wrote, and i quoted extensively from his book, that in Britain homosexuals were widely despised and ‘buggery’ was a capital crime until 1861. An anti-homosexual feeling had erupted in England. Homo-sexuals were arrested and pilloried in 1810. In London, mobs used to bay for their blood. As a result, several persecuted homosexuals left England and came to India where opportunities were more and risks were less. There was a reaction to this on the part of missionaries who had become increasingly active in India. This led Macaulay to formulate Section 377.

As far as Indian society was concerned i said: “Indian society prevalent before the enactment of the IPC had a much greater tolerance for homosexuality than its British counterpart, which at this time was under the influence of Victorian morality and values in regard to family and the procreative nature of sex.”

The categorical stand was: “Introduction of Section 377 in India was not a reflection of existing Indian values and traditions. Rather, it was imposed upon Indian society due to the moral views of the colonisers.”

The concept of intercourse against the order of nature is troublesome. It raised further questions: “What then is the order of nature?” and “What is against the order of nature?” Is it not conceivable that what was perceived to be against the order of nature in 1860 may not subsequently be perceived to be against the order of nature particularly in view of a change in society’s understanding or tolerance of that thing?

The world has moved on. It is fast changing. Perceptions have changed. Attitudes have changed. Law does not and cannot remain static. Whenever necessary, the Supreme Court has reflected changed perceptions of the law and has struck outmoded laws down. They did so when striking down rent control laws as socially irrelevant. They also did it by breathing fresh life into Article 21, protecting life and personal liberty. They did it by consigning the archaic judgment in A K Gopalan vs State of Madras, rendered in 1950, into the dustbin of history. Unfortunately, they declined to give a similar treatment to Section 377. Therein lies the tragedy.

The writer is Attorney General of India.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-12-13/edit-page/45124053_1_delhi-high-court-supreme-court-judgment

NAPM demands legal recognition of the natural right to life and love of lakhs of gender diverse individuals

Apex Court verdict re-criminalizing consensual same sex relationships unconstitutional and inhuman

NAPM demands legal recognition of the natural right to life and love of lakhs of gender diverse individuals

New Delhi, December 14 : As lakhs of individuals and groups across the country, celebrated the 4th anniversary of the historical judgement by Justice (Retd). A.P. Shah and Justice (Retd). Muralidharan of the Delhi High Court,  recognizing the natural right to life and life of gender diverse persons on the International Human Rights Day, the verdict of the Supreme Court, just a day after, on 11th December, comes as a serious blow to and blot on the Constitution of India which guarantees social, political, economic and cultural equality to all citizens and upholds the dignity of every individual as sacrosanct.

In a unjustifiable order, the Apex Court, overturned the Delhi High Court’s Judgement which held Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to be unconstitutional and upheld the right to consensual sexual relationships of lesbian, gay, transgender, bi-sexual and other gender variant individuals. Drawing from Gandhi, Marx and Ambedkar, the Delhi High Court judgment re-introduced the idea of inclusivity, which is at the heart of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court’s verdict rejecting the High Court’s judgment is blow to the lofty constitutional values and inalienable fundamental rights.

We, at the National Alliance of People’s Movements are deeply disturbed by this retrograde move of the Supreme Court, an institution, which continues to enjoy the faith of millions of people of this country and is looked upon as a beacon of hope in our democracy. We are of the clear opinion that the not just Section 377, but even the present order of the Apex Court, is in stark violation of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution and will be challenged by all progressive forces of this nation, through the Parliament and also on the streets.

We also strongly think that struggle of gender diverse individuals is not just for the right to consensual sexual relationships, but is for their very right to life and is inseparable from their personal, political, emotional and social well-being.  It is not just a ‘personal issue’, but an intense issue of political and human justice, which every one of us are deeply concerned about. For gender variant persons, every day is a struggle and we stand by the brave community of gender variant people who face violence and discrimination at homes, in the society and in their dealings with the State.

We would also like to note that any agency of the State, including the Judiciary, does not have the right to interfere with the right to life of any individual, except in accordance with law, that must be based on a clear constitutional premise. The right to live ones own life with dignity and without interference with the rights of others or without any disturbance to the society cannot be taken away by any law of the legislature, Parliament or order of the Courts.

In a State and society, which is not outraged enough even after the rape of thousands of women, where women and other gender diverse individuals still do not have the real freedom to move and express safely, where tribals gets displaced from their traditional land and resources in the name of ‘development’, where thousands of struggling urban poor are under-paid, sleep on the pavements, where a whole community gets killed because of their religious identity, violence on lakhs of gender variant individuals cannot be perpetuated in garb of ‘abstract morality’ !

This is neither a moment of sorrow nor defeat. It’s a moment for collective reflection and action, for us, as a nation. Just as thousands of farmers, adivasis, fish workers, labourers and others, refused to accept ‘defeat’ after the Supreme Court’s Judgement on Narmada in 2000, and intensified their legal and mass struggle for the right to life, the community of gender diverse individuals also shall stand up in this moment and assert their right to life, which is integral with the Constitution of India.

Continuing with the resolution adopted at our 8th biennial convention in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh,  (given below after this statement) NAPM joins hands with our friends celebrating diversity, plurality calls for a rainbow of resistances against injustice and violence. We also urge the gender diverse community to join hands with other social and political movements to built a nation beyond caste, class, creed, gender, race, religion and regional differences and challenge corporatization, communalism and corruption in every walk of life.

NAPM also urges and demands the Indian Parliament of India to completely remove Section 377 from the IPC, uphold the right to life of all gender diverse individuals and enact a comprehensive law for their social, political and economic well-being. UPA govt. should take urgent step to save LGBTQ rights file review petition in Supreme Court immediately .

Resolution on the LGBTQ Issues adopted at 8th bi-ennial Convention of NAPM, Badwani, October 26, 2010

We oppose persecution and discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender orientation in all forms and strive towards full social and political equality of all individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Intersex and Queer (LGBTQ).

While welcoming the July 2nd 2009 judgment of the Delhi high court to decriminalize homosexuality NAPM recognizes that the LGBTQ community continues to be discriminated against in schools, colleges, workspaces, homes, the streets and before the law. We affirm that sexual orientation and gender identity are innate and cannot be consciously changed and we oppose attempts to convert LGBTQ individuals into heterosexuals or force them to conform to dominant notions of masculinity or femininity on the grounds of morality, religion or nature. We call for an official recognition of the LGBTQ community and demand changes in policies and laws that guarantee their rights not only to identity and dignity but also to welfare, protection from persecution and self-determination. These include affirmative action to ensure equal opportunity for LGBTQ individuals in relation to education, employment, health, housing, livelihood and people oriented development. We strive to ensure that the LGBTQ community joins the political mainstream on the same level as other groups in society and value the empowerment and participation of the LGBTQ community in all fields including organizing within our own movements.

Therefore, we also call upon the movements, constituents of NAPM and other concerned friends to move towards greater sensitivity and awareness on LGBTQ issues;  by incorporating greater inclusiveness of LGBTQ voices, perspectives and concerns to the understanding of our struggles and the framing our demands. NAPM affirms that this is the way forward in the alliance building process we set out to do sixteen years back. More importantly it is the only way towards truly building a just society, which guarantees dignity, human rights, equality and people oriented development, which forms the heart of the struggles that come together in NAPM.

Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan – National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan, NAPM, Odisha; Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, MP; Gautam Bandopadhyay – Nadi Ghati Morcha, NAPM, Chhattisgarh; Vilas Bhongade, Suniti SR, Prasad Bagwe Suhas Kolhekar – NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriel Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; C R Neelakandan – NAPM Kerala; Ramakrishnan Raju, Saraswati Kavula, P Chennaiah – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, Bhupender Singh Rawat,Rajendra Ravi, Anita Kapoor – NAPM, Delhi; Arundhati Dhuru, Sandeep Pandey – NAPM, UP; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union, NAPM, Karnataka; Sumit Wanjale, Madhuri Shivkar – Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, NAPM, Mumbai; Manish Gupta – Jan Kalyan Upbhokta Samiti, NAPM, UP; Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan sangathan, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Krishnakant, Anand Mazhgaonkar, Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; Madhuresh Kumar, Seela M Mahapatra, Meera – NAPM