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Home > Lifestyle News > Culture News > Article > You have to understand what youre hating Damini Sinha

You have to understand what you’re hating: Damini Sinha

Updated on: 08 July,2024 12:29 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Ainie Rizvi |

Working at Infosys, Sinha is India’s first trans woman to become a software engineer. Yet, it still doesn’t suffice for the dignity she is entitled to while seeking a residence. In a conversation with, she opens up about why housing remains an uphill task for transgenders in India

You have to understand what you’re hating: Damini Sinha

Damini Sinha

Damini Sinha (42) does not need to face her landlord anymore. A trans woman by identity, she has endured blatant discrimination while searching for a house in Pune. “They doubt everything I say. They can't trust that I am qualified enough to work in the IT sector and they invariably assume that I am a sex worker,” Sinha tells Midday. 

Working at Infosys, Sinha has emerged as India’s first trans woman to work as a software engineer. However, it still doesn’t suffice for the dignity she is entitled to while seeking a residence. To her rescue, now her fiancé (name anonymised at request) deals with the proprietor for any lease-related query. 

Sinha may have found her hermit, yet, her path to this comfort zone has been fraught with hardships and trials. “It is very difficult to get a house from a direct owner. They scrutinise my documents, identity cards and my workplace multiple times. Once the paperwork is clear – they try to trap me in inadequate housing societies,” she adds.

In June 2019, the International Commission of Jurists released a report containing harrowing accounts shared by transgender individuals who faced harassment while seeking rental housing. Among the highlighted issues were concerns about sexual violence, elevated rent prices, absence of secure tenure, excessive demands and landlords encroaching on personal space. 

What does the Indian law say?
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 prohibits discrimination against a transgender, including unfair treatment or denial of service in relation to the right to rent or own property, education, employment, healthcare, access to public goods and facilities and the right to movement.

Yet Sinha was faced with excuses from landowners denying the right to rent a house. They tell her: “We changed our plan – a relative visiting Pune might be taking up residence.” In another incident, Sinha and the owner both reached the location to sign the agreement. Upon reaching, he called the agent to cancel the deal and left without conveying anything.

Alienation, shame and contempt at the hands of brokers and landlords – Sinha is not alone in this ordeal. Mahek Agarwal – a Mumbai-based trans woman narrates how she contacted the owner directly from the rental housing app – NoBroker and was faced with denial. “There is no real provision for gender-inclusive housing in Indian societies and the so-called laws violate the Housing Act itself,” opines Agarwal. 

The primary objective of the Bill was to extend legal safeguards to the transgender community, aiming to curb discrimination against them. However, the government faced criticism for its perceived inaction on protecting the rights of transgenders as tenants.  

Breaking the mould
Like several other trans people fighting for their rights, Sinha continues to sensitise people towards transgender people and their needs. “We are very silent and peaceful people. I am not saying that we don’t have bad people in our community. But there is nothing that I would do to harm the society we inhabit,” shares Sinha as she breaks down. 

Being subjected to marginalisation and ostracisation for years, Sinha wants to raise awareness about transgenders in Indian society. For over 23 years, she has faced rejections from companies and multiple housing societies. “So, like Policy ke naam society mein toh kuch hai hi nahi. You can't address our issues in public places.”

In the previous year, the Kinnar Maa Samajik Sanstha Trust orchestrated a Pink Rally advocating for equal rights for the transgender community in India. Despite the existence of such rallies and the backing they receive, the transgender population in India still struggles to establish a secure standing in society when it comes to housing and employment.

The sensitisation program should extend beyond just narrating personal stories, opines Sinha. While individuals may touch upon their experiences, there should be a comprehensive exploration of gender and sexuality. Currently, it seems like a mere formality on paper and it is crucial to ensure that this understanding becomes a routine practice.

Regular sessions are necessary to make it mandatory for people to comprehend the intricacies of the LGBT community, including aspects of gender identity and sexual orientation. Homophobia and transphobia often stem from a limited understanding, where individuals may be aware of certain aspects but are reluctant to accept them.

Therefore, consistent and frequent practice is needed to dispel misconceptions and foster acceptance. This could involve regular monthly sessions that delve into these topics, creating a space for open discussions and a more profound understanding of the diversity within the LGBT community.

Trans lives matter
Transgender people were denied visibility in the census until 2011 when India attempted to collect data on people with non-binary gender identities. The census reported the presence of 480,000 transgender people, but activists dispute this as a significant underestimation, suggesting a more accurate figure might be 1.5 million.

However, many remain unregistered as the documentation process is hard and there is a lack of knowledge among the trans community. “You have to understand first what you’re hating,’ recounts Sinha. It's akin to disliking sugar without necessarily consuming it or having an aversion to tea just because you're aware it might lead to weight gain,” she adds.

Transgender individuals are essentially no different from the rest of us. Yes, there are nuanced distinctions between males and females in terms of their inherent characteristics, communication styles, assertiveness and gentleness. These differences exist within the male and female genders as well. Therefore, acknowledging a third gender, which encompasses transgender individuals, involves recognising variations in their speech, mannerisms and overall presence – remarks Sinha.

“Those who are open to accepting these differences find joy in witnessing the growth of the transgender community. This growth spans various aspects, including professional development and achievements in different fields, such as the fashion industry. Transgender individuals are making strides as doctors, judges and advocates, gradually integrating into various sectors.” This acceptance and inclusion contribute to the overall progress and visibility of the transgender community.

According to the World Health Organisation, ‘transgender’ is an umbrella term that includes persons whose sense of gender does not match the gender assigned to them at birth. For example, a person born as a man may identify with the opposite gender, as a woman. According to the 2011 Census, the number of persons who do not identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’ but as ‘other’ stands at 0.04 pct of the total Indian population.  

This ‘other’ category applied to persons who did not identify as either male or female and included transgender persons who command the same amount of request as the rest of us.

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