COVID-19 impact: With no legal documents, transgenders left 'begging' for food, money

Updated: Jul 16, 2020, 09:51 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

As majority of the city's 10 lakh transgender population has no govt documents, they are struggling for food grain and other relief

Aryan Pasha, a transman, (right) distributing food grain kits to others in the community
Aryan Pasha, a transman, (right) distributing food grain kits to others in the community

Among the many communities badly affected by the pandemic, is the transgender community across the country. With no income and no documents to avail government benefits, the transgender community is left in the lurch. According to official data (2011 census), 4.80 lakh transgenders live in the country, of which around 10 lakh reside in Mumbai.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender rights activist, said, "It is unfortunate that the discrimination continues and at a time when the government should have come forward and have supported the community, they have been left out. We are not looking for sympathy, but empathy with dignity."

With no income for the past four months, meeting daily expenses has become very difficult for the community.

Neeraj Kohli with his new car which he had to sell during lockdown; (right) Aryan Pasha showing his build
Neeraj Kohli with his new car which he had to sell during lockdown; (right) Aryan Pasha showing his build

Sahil Parmar alias Shalini, who underwent the first part of his Gender Reassignment Surgery at LTMG Hospital, Sion on March 14, was looking forward to finally live a normal life. However, the weekly hospital visits and medications have drained him financially.

A native of Vadodara, Gujarat, Parmar lived in a rented accommodation in Virar and worked at an imitation jewellery manufacturing unit in Malad. With a monthly salary of Rs 7,000, he would pay the house rent and manage other expenses.

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"Private hospitals quoted Rs 1.50 lakh for the surgery while at Sion hospital it was Rs 25,000, which I managed. I had no one apart from my elder sister to support me. I don't even have any government document to avail ration," the 23-year-old said.

Nirvair Kaur
Nirvair Kaur

For Parmar, who lost his mother a decade ago, the fear of COVID infection post-surgery was also a concern. "I could not travel to Sion amid the lockdown and there were no general practitioners either. My sister soon began to change my dressing but I had to struggle to get my hormone injections (every 20 days)," said the youngster who shifted to Vadodara with her sister a few days after the surgery.

With the father and siblings taking time to accept the Gender Reassignment Surgery, Parmar has been living in a rented accommodation in his hometown as well.

"All my legal documents which I had submitted for changing my gender are also stuck due to the lockdown. My girlfriend (living in Virar) has been very supportive. I hope that the lockdown is lifted soon so that I can start my new life and return to Mumbai with my new identity," he said.

Not easy to get jobs
Nirvair Kaur, 44, a native of Punjab, had to change three cities because of her transwoman identity. A postgraduate in computer science from Punjab University, she spent most of her life in Mumbai before she had to shift to Goa and then Delhi.

Born a male, Kaur underwent surgery a year ago to become a woman. "I tried to get a job but it was not easy for me to convince people that I was a female and therefore took to begging on the streets of South West Delhi along with other transgenders."

The pandemic and lockdown further affected "our community members who are left without food and money. "The transgender community members and trusts like Humsafar have been supporting some of them with foodgrains and R1,500 monthly," she said.

Loans to repay
For transman Neeraj Kohli alias Neelam, 30, who stays with his family in Jahangirpuri, West Delhi, worked as a driver earning monthly Rs 20,000 but the pandemic has left him jobless. "I bought a four-wheeler in January this year with a down payment of Rs 1.50 lakh and took a loan for the rest of R5 lakh. The monthly EMI was Rs 13,323. My car ran for barely 39 days and I earned Rs 81,000 through the travel company," he said.

"I had no option but to sell my car at Rs 1.27 lakh and the new owner has promised to transfer EMI monthly in my account which the bank would deduct for four years. I have no money to pay the bank and even my car is gone," he added.

Pasha to the rescue
All of these people are being supported by Aryan Pasha, India's first transman bodybuilder, along with Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi. The two have been trying to provide support to transgenders, HIV patients, old-age centres wherever possible.

Pasha, who was detected COVID-19 positive along with his father Javed Akthar Pasha and grandmother, has recovered from it. "I was venturing out to help our community which is when I must have contracted the virus. However, due to my regular exercise and food supplements, I was able to recover without any complications," he said.

Rs 1,500
Monthly aid being provided to transgenders by Humsafar trust

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