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The Senseless Reason India’s ‘Third Gender’ (As Legally Called) Are Missing Out On Rightful Vaccination

Her hands slowly took it from me. She kept looking at them. Somehow, I felt the urge to ask her this question. “Akka, are you vaccinated?” This time my voice went feeble. In a second, her eyes turned moist.

Her hands slowly took it from me. She kept looking at them. Somehow, I felt the urge to ask her this question. “Akka, are you vaccinated?” This time my voice went feeble. In a second, her eyes turned moist.

This happened a while ago, but seems more relevant now that the cases are again rising.

That day, I reached the mobile network showroom to replace my sim card. (that had had issues for quite a long time, and I had avoided stepping out unless needed) Since I knew the amount, I was holding two hundred rupee notes and was waiting for the cab driver to close the app and inform the amount. He had some connectivity issues, and it took a while.

That’s when I heard the voice. My eyes were fixated on the cab driver’s mobile screen, but my mind followed the voice.

“Let the mighty God bless you with all the wealth in this world. Without any ailments, you would live for hundred years. Why don’t you give me ten rupees?”

“Akka, are you vaccinated?”

Why did I feel disturbed?

I pushed myself and turned to see her. She was about five feet ten inches tall. With kohl-laden eyes and a tint of lipstick, she wore a cotton saree pinned neatly. Her face was clearly seen, and she wasn’t wearing a mask. She was from also the Hijra community.

“Akka!” I called. Till now I don’t know what made me do so. I hadn’t talked to any of them earlier, but yes, just handed over some money whenever someone had asked.

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She stood and turned, and looked straight into my eyes. I was so sure she did not expect me to have a conversation with her. She waited till I spoke.

“Akka, actually I wanted to give this also.” Quickly I opened my handbag and pulled out a sanitizer and a mask. Usually, my handbag had so many assorted kinds of stuff, but after the beginning of the pandemic, there were plenty of sanitizers and masks. Initially, I carried an extra one for me. But when I began noticing anyone asking for alms on the road, along with the money, I made it a habit to give them a mask and sanitizer. They indeed gave a different look, but I understood it was with gratitude.

Her hands slowly took it from me. She kept looking at them. Somehow, I felt the urge to ask her this question. “Akka, are you vaccinated?” This time my voice went feeble. In a second, her eyes turned moist.

Her head turned went from right to left a few times. Like I had guessed it before, quickly I took a pen and paper. I wrote the nearby hospital names and the government camps that were providing the vaccine. She confirmed she had her Aadhar card as her ID card. For the next five minutes, I was explaining the steps on how to get vaccinated. She listened completely.

My cab driver now honked. I paid him and he started with relief.

“Akka, please get vaccinated. Please take your friends along with you,” I was almost pleading with her.

She opened the sanitizer and let out a few drops. Rubbing her fingers together, she kept her palm on my head and said, “Bless you, child.”

She then walked to the nearby shop with the mask covering her face.

Can we acknowledge their humanity? They are one of us!

Ever since the pandemic has started, all our lives were tested in some way or the other. Fear has gripped us like an unwanted distant relative, not letting us be ourselves. After vaccines were introduced this year, there was hope for the future to see somewhat normal life as the complete normal was no longer alive.

The usual question on meeting a relative or friend either in person or through phone “How are you?” –  Turned into “Are you vaccinated?”

While there are several NGOs and other organizations taking initiatives to check on the vaccine status of the underprivileged people, I just hope that marginalised people from the Hijra community are also included. Several weeks ago, I had read that there weren’t any solid statistics about the number of people from the Hijra community being vaccinated, as much as it was for men and women, as there was no ‘Other’ category for gender. Hopefully that is being looked into, as it is important to check on their vaccination status as well because Corona stays neutral and can pounce on any gender. As this article said, “Among the issues holding back the transgender population are lack of documentation and a general distancing of the community from healthcare …”

A couple of months ago, I read that the United States has issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation. The X category refers to any person who does not exclusively identify as either a male or a female. I felt it to be an excellent initiative and I hope it may spread to other countries as well. This kind of identification may boost confidence in the people and they don’t need to shy away from public places.

After this incident, I had spoken in my friends and relatives circle so that a little awareness could be spread. It may seem like a drop in the ocean but I strongly believe it may stop or fight a storm someday in the future – you could do your bit by spreading awareness too.

Picture credits: Still from Tamil movie Super Deluxe

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