For a long time, my perception of the third gender was that of fear. Maybe it was coloured by their portrayal in films and stories I heard. They were supposed to be kidnappers of children, untrustworthy, dangerous and loud. Now I feel ashamed for believing those stereotypes.
In my early days in Mumbai, I cringed and avoided eye contact everytime a transgender approached me in the train or an auto. One day, I was travelling with my friend Sanjay Suri and a transgender person knocked on our window at the Juhu Circle signal. I was amazed to see Sanjay speak effortlessly. It was an interaction between two people with very different lives. I realised how narrow my thinking was despite being marginalised as a gay person.
Denied access to education, health services, jobs and respect, the transgender community in India has been pushed to the brink of society. Begging and prostitution are their only viable ways of earning a livelihood. And yet many of them have not just endured, but have become a support system for each other, and continued to fight for their rights over the past decade. They have persisted and won.
Supreme Court’s verdict granting the community special status is a great move as it entitles them to reservation at the workplace. This will help in in giving them a place in society that should have been rightfully theirs all along.
It’s significant that the judgement comes just after the SC repealed the Delhi High Court verdict on IPC377. It is ironical that the community that has been the step-child of the LGBT community, has tasted victory and provided grounds for the courts to re-examine section 377. I hope that the LGBT community will get fundamental rights granted by the constitution. The third gender status teaches us that often, a larger movement for civil rights can bring us unexpected gains.
A National Award-winning filmmaker, Onir has touched upon LGBT issues with films such as My Brother... Nikhil and I Am.