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Something as simple as enrolling in college is incredibly hard for transgender people. How do we expect them to earn their livelihoods when we deny them education?
In April 2014, the Supreme court recognized ‘transgender’ as a third gender by law, but the recognition has had little or no effect on the status of transgender people in the country.
We safely assumed that the lives of transgender people were lifted high when the courts recognized them as the third gender, right as we kept on ignoring their absence around us. We failed to examine why we don’t have transgender classmates, colleagues, friends, neighbours, shop keepers, politicians, leaders, etc., despite the judgment that sounded promising for the transgender community.
Did the transgender community disappear out of our sight, or are they battling a struggle that is hidden in plain sight?
Sana Suman, a transgender woman activist from Karnataka, has created a campaign to fight for a cause: she wants transgender people to be able to exercise their Right to Education, a right that’s being denied by the educational institutions.
Sana wants to break the stereotypical notions prevailing in society about transgender people and has taken the challenge herself by enrolling in B.A Journalism at St Joseph’s College, Bangalore. Through her petition, she is requesting the Karnataka state government’s Department of Education to include the ‘Others’ column in college admission forms so that transgender people like her can access the Right to Education without the discrimination.
Before her gaining admission at St. Joseph’s, Sana was not allowed admission in 7 colleges because of the gender discrepancy in her documents (this is a significant problem for many in the community since the gender on their birth certificates/school documents often does not match the gender they choose later to be identified as). Further, she has faced other difficulties such as being denied the use of female restrooms. Such discrimination often drives transgender people towards the only two occupations available to most in the community, i.e. sex work or begging.
Even government issued ID cards, such as the PAN card included ‘third gender’ as an option only after the first quarter in 2018. If the government itself takes a long time to include a ‘third gender’ column in its forms and ID cards, we can only imagine the discrimination and the lack of recognition they face in private settings.
Schools and colleges are the most important place for a society to becoming accepting of the minorities. If we assume that parents don’t teach their children about transgender issues, educational institutions are the only places one can have hope in. Educational institutions have the power to change the mindset of many because a student will not just share a classroom with a transgender person, but also develop a deeper perception by knowing them day by day, leading to the disintegration of the stigma associated with transgender people.
Is it because we are scared of them graduating, getting a job, or starting a business, so they won’t be forced into low paying and often dangerous work? Are they going to eat us alive in schools and colleges if they sit among us? Or we might defend ourselves by pulling this card that says, “We want to see them get educated too, but we’re just not used to living around them.”
Was it their decision to live alienated from the rest of us?
99% of transgender people have faced social rejection, and 92% are deprived of the right to participate in any form of economic activities in India.
The data is not a surprise at all. Let’s just ask ourselves if we’ve had a trans person in our classroom or workplace, or have seen them running a business in our neighborhood, and most of us will come up with a answer that would paint a picture of a horrible society in which trans people are invisible.
We have successfully alienated them. We’ve succeeded in send them to live in isolated communities in which the most common ways to earn a living is by begging or by becoming a sex worker.
52% transgenders were harassed by classmates, and 15% were harassed by teachers. Now, it’s time to stop the paranoia that transgender people will harm other students, while they are the ones who are being bullied at schools and colleges.
Transgender people don’t need our charity. They will take care of themselves by raising their voices, but we should let them know that their voice is heard. Let’s sign this petition to let them know that we fully support their right to live with dignity.
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