The word ‘transgender’ is used to refer to those individuals whose gender identity is different from the sexual orientation that is attributed to them by birth. The term ‘third gender’ is generally used to address people who face the dilemma of biological orientation, gender roles and gender identification. Hence, it becomes important to differentiate between the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. Societies usually affirm the same meaning or characteristics to these terminologies and they are more or less regarded as synonyms. The ‘sex’ of an individual refers to the sexual orientation based on sexual anatomy and chromosomal structures that categorizes babies into male and female by birth. On the other hand, the ‘gender’ of an individual refers to a societal construct attributed to individuals based on their gender roles.
Although protests and activism in support of the third gender (including lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer) had started by the late 20th century, it is only in the 21st century that the movement gained momentum. It was then that people started to accept the notion of third gender. The social needs, political rights and the economic vulnerability of these individuals were focused on and various steps were taken to improve their position in the society. It was not an easy struggle as the notion was not wholeheartedly accepted, and still isn’t by most people in the world. Even the western countries have had a very long history of movements and protests that came up to achieve recognition for the third gender.
Social stigma, conservative ideals, religious orthodoxy, arguments of natural selection and ethical considerations was some of the issues that came up in the way of this struggle. These were issues that questioned the existence and acceptance of these individuals. Even though the US does not have a specific law for transgender rights, the federal law of equal protection grants these rights to these individuals. But the situation in the US is not as good as it seems, especially with the Trump administration that is trying to define gender on the basis of biological attributes. The situation is quite different in other countries. A large number of countries, especially European countries and even India have developed a positive attitude towards transgender rights and privileges.
In a recent survey conducted by BuzzFeed News, polling firm Ipsos and the UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute, it has been revealed that Spain is the most supportive country to the third gender followed by Sweden, Argentina, Canada and Germany. India ranks 8th which is a positive outcome considering that it is a country where culture and tradition plays an important role in the lives of the people. In India, the Transgender Rights Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in the year 2014 and was passed with a majority after a huge debate and discussions. The Bill was further introduced in Lok Sabha in 2016. The Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgement on September 2018 legalized the LGBTQ status thus moving a step forward towards equality.
Although the verdict was welcomed by most people in cities, it faced a backlash from rural communities and religious groups. The rights and needs of the LGBT community should be recognized and any form of discrimination must be prevented as they, like any other individual, deserve to lead a normal life. The Sexual orientation and gender roles of a person should not be the judging point of their character and personality. The prejudices related to the LGBT community have reduced in the recent times and more young people are even coming forward to fight for them. It is unjust to blame the third gender for their sexual orientation or gender identity as it is something natural and not something people choose to become.
They might have been born with hormonal imbalances that determine what they become. They also face an identity crisis when they are unable to identify themselves with the biological sex they are born with. Just because they do not fit into the existing social norms, they should not be treated differently. What has to be changed is people’s idea of gender roles. It is this very notion that allowed discrimination against women for centuries and confined them to the four walls of the house. It took a great deal of time and effort for women to break free from these shackles and reach a point where the situation is becoming more favorable for them. The same progress must be achieved in terms of the LGBT people as well.
One of the major steps that will help bring these people into mainstream is granting them sufficient and efficient legal protection like voting rights, reservation in elections, reservation in educational institutions, employment sector and above all providing them public recognition. Other institutional problems of marriage, adoption etc. should also be well addressed. Even the religious barriers should be eliminated, considering humanity above age-old traditions and orthodoxy. Let us stop the idea of considering them as the ‘other’ and make better living conditions for them. They should be treated well, respected and accepted.
Picture Credits : livemint