Kabir Gawlani, a transman in Indore, with his parents . Not all transgender people are lucky to have family support. Many face resistance and end up struggling to bear the expenses for gender affirmation surgeries.(Raj K Raj/HT)
Kabir Gawlani, a transman in Indore, with his parents . Not all transgender people are lucky to have family support. Many face resistance and end up struggling to bear the expenses for gender affirmation surgeries.(Raj K Raj/HT)

‘Being denied what is integral to you’: The struggle for transgender rights

Medical expenses, social biases and legal hassles: transgenders in India have to counter several challenges
By Namita Kohli | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JUL 03, 2016 12:01 PM IST

Chicago-based Nina Chaubal says she hasn’t visited India for a “really long time” now. Nina, a transwoman in her mid-20s, left Mumbai for the US in 2009. There, while in college, she “came out” as a transwoman in 2013, and got gender affirmation surgery (GAS) too.

Back in Mumbai, however, none of this was possible: Nina’s family wasn’t supportive of her identity as a transwoman, and it was hard for her to imagine a “life she wanted” in India. After college, Nina moved to California and worked as a software engineer with Google for a few years. Last year, Nina got married too.

About a year and a half ago, she co-founded Trans Lifeline, a helpline for transgender people in the US and Canada, with her partner. The helpline receives calls from all over the world, with a small percentage of the callers being Indians as well. “Indian callers are mostly concerned about not being able to find work, and not being comfortable in coming out,” she says.

The situation of those turning to Nina’s helpline needs to be understood in the current context of transgender rights in the country. In 2014, the Supreme Court’s (SC) recognition of the legal status of “third gender” (aka, The National Legal Services Authority judgment) and the right to determine and express one’s gender came as a shot in the arm for transgender rights. According to the judgment, the definition of “third gender” included those who “intend to or have undergone sex reassignment surgery” or “transsexuals”.

Earlier this week, the SC clarified that “third gender” does not include lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

Claiming their identity

For many in the trans community, however, manoeuvring the claims of identity can be tricky. Some such as Nina, for instance, say that they do not want to be categorised as “third gender”, and instead want to conform to the gender binary, that is, male or female. “There’s anger within the community over the fact that in India, the term “transgender” gets associated with “hijras” , and the voices of the transmen and women get erased,” says Vinay Chandran, executive director of the Bengaluru-based Swabhava Trust, an NGO working with sexual and gender minorities. At times, this association might stall their chances of getting access to surgery or, even a change in their legal documents.

The progressive judgement apart, the process of aligning their body with their gender remains a fraught one – there are multiple battles to be fought on the medical, social and legal fronts. To begin with, a lack of support from the family ends up limiting the choices that transpersons might have. “Many parents will come and threaten us because they find it hard to comprehend why we would need to change their son or daughter’s gender,” says Dr Mahesh Mangal, chairman, department of plastic surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

Read:‘Transgenders denied access to public toilets’

Even as Thailand remains one of the most popular destinations for GAS, India is fast progressing towards a destination for both domestic and international clients, confirms Dr Richie Gupta at the Gender Clinic at Fortis, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi.

But for many who plan to undergo the arduous process of surgery, lack of support from the family often translates into struggling to keep up with the medical expenses. The cost of aligning the body to suit the gender (including genital surgeries) can go up to Rs 8-10 lakhs at a private hospital in Delhi.

While the surgery is free in government hospitals, some such as Manvi Vaishnav, a Baroda-based transgender activist with the Lakshya Trust, say that doctors in government hospitals are either not trained to offer the surgery, tend to refuse it on flimsy grounds, or dilly-dally the right treatment, prolonging a transperson’s distress and anxiety. “It took me five years to get the complete set of surgeries for my transition. Ultimately, I had to turn to a private hospital,” says Manvi.

However, some transsexuals feel that, at times, access to doctors who can diagnose Gender Dysphoria and prescribe the right treatment can be challenging too. Advik (he chose to reveal his first name only), a psychologist who is currently in the middle of his transition, says that it’s important to get to the right doctor. In a moving post on his blog, he writes about his struggle of going from “hospital to hospital, doctor to doctor, for not days, not week, not months, but years, to get permission from those strangers, to live as what I am”.

Battling prejudice

Doctors can get prejudiced when it comes to Gender Dysphoria. Both Chandran and Nina feel that since there are different levels of dysphoria – some may not want or need surgery, while others may really need it – doctors need to be careful in dealing with individual concerns and needs. “Doctors need to understand that gender exists out of the binary of a man and a woman,” says Vinay, LGBT activist and co-editor of Nothing to Fix: Medicalisation of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, dysphoric persons and “gender non-conforming” people (refers to the extent to which a person’s gender identity, role, or expression differs from the cultural norms prescribed for people of a particular sex ), are different and the diagnosis has to factor in individual needs. Vinay also points that within the trans community, transmen have a harder time. “Doctors will not blink if a woman wants breast enhancement. But they can be very prejudiced when a woman wants to remove her breasts,” he says.

Read:Banker, model, mayor: Transgenders forge a new identity in India

The surgeries required for a “female to male operation” is more complicated, expensive and hence, many transmen may stop at breast reduction, as it allows them to pass as a man. “It is ironical though that our society is prejudiced against a boy showing signs of feminine behaviour, and so, they are easily ‘found out’ by the family and might even end up getting treatment earlier. However, a woman acting tomboyish is acceptable, and the dysphoria might not be ‘found out’ that soon,” claims Dr Gupta.

Changing documents such as passports can be frustrating for transpersons: the term “third gender” can be confusing for government officials, and for those who may want to opt for the category to claim benefits, it can be an uphill task. For others such as Nina, who don’t wish to claim that identity, the hassle of dealing with bureaucracy and having to explain one’s gender can be a deterrent. “I am a woman. My passport says I am male, but my body and my appearance are that of a woman,” says Nina, who holds an Indian passport. “Gender is deeply ingrained in you early on in your life. It’s traumatic to be denied something that is so integral to you – just because for some people, it is hard to understand that others may be different from them.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Representational image. (PTI)
Representational image. (PTI)

Kashmir: National Conference, PDP welcome ceasefire along LoC

By Mir Ehsan
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:46 PM IST
A joint statement issued by the armies of both countries said the move followed a discussion between India’s DGMO Lt Gen Paramjit Singh Sangha and his Pakistani counterpart, Maj Gen Nauman Zakaria
Close
A UK judge cleared Nirav Modi's extradition to India on Thursday(Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint Archives)
A UK judge cleared Nirav Modi's extradition to India on Thursday(Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint Archives)

'Money laundering charge established': UK judge clears Nirav Modi's extradition

Reported by Neeraj Chauhan | Written by Prashasti Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:32 PM IST
Prima facie CBI case has been established, a UK court said, adding that Nirav Modi and his brother conspired to defraud the Punjab National Bank (PNB).
Close
Samajwadi Party national president Akhilesh Yadav addresses a press conference.(ANI)
Samajwadi Party national president Akhilesh Yadav addresses a press conference.(ANI)

'When will smart cities be built, rivers cleaned': Akhilesh Yadav asks BJP

ANI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:12 PM IST
"BJP should give an answer to the people when will smart cities be built. They took the oath of 'Maa Ganga' to clean the river, but why is it still not clean. They had taken the 'Sankalp' of cleaning all the rivers in the country, but it is not happening," Yadav said.
Close
People wait in queue outside an airport. (HT FILE)
People wait in queue outside an airport. (HT FILE)

Indian expats in UAE seek exemption from self-paid Covid tests on arrival

PTI, Dubai
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:05 PM IST
India has since February 23 made it mandatory for passengers to produce the negative report of the RT-PCR tests.
Close
Images using Landsat data from the US Geological Survey and topographic data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). (Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)
Images using Landsat data from the US Geological Survey and topographic data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). (Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Months before Chamoli tragedy, satellite images showed crack in mountain ice

PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 04:00 PM IST
Scientists from Dehradun’s Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, who visited the disaster scene, have come up with similar findings, minus the crack being visible months before
Close
In just 9 days, the doubling rate of coronavirus cases in Mumbai has reduced to 294 days..(PTI)
In just 9 days, the doubling rate of coronavirus cases in Mumbai has reduced to 294 days..(PTI)

Covid-19 spike in Mumbai: Here's how the hotspots changed in 9 days

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Deepali Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 03:55 PM IST
Here is the list of Covid hotspots in Mumbai, as of February 23.
Close
In written response to a question in Lok Sabha earlier this month, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said a total of 10,752 cases of ceasefire violations have taken place along India's border with Pakistan in the last three years, in which 72 security personnel and 70 civilians were killed.(AP)
In written response to a question in Lok Sabha earlier this month, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said a total of 10,752 cases of ceasefire violations have taken place along India's border with Pakistan in the last three years, in which 72 security personnel and 70 civilians were killed.(AP)

India, Pakistan agree to follow all ceasefire pacts

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 03:29 PM IST
The decision on ceasefire, effective since Wednesday midnight, was taken at a meeting between the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan.
Close
India for decades has been subject to such proxy cross-border and relentless state-supported terrorist attacks from its neighbourhood.(PTI)
India for decades has been subject to such proxy cross-border and relentless state-supported terrorist attacks from its neighbourhood.(PTI)

Would be compelled to take pre-emptive strike against imminent attack: India

PTI, United Nations
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 03:24 PM IST
Naidu told the meeting that exercising self-defence is a primary right of States to be exercised when the situation is imminent.
Close
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami made the important announcement in the state assembly on Thursday.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami made the important announcement in the state assembly on Thursday.

‘All pass’: Tamil Nadu CM says no final exams for classes 9,10, 11

By Divya Chandrababu | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, Chennai
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • The state board exams are usually held in March, but had been postponed to April this year, due to the pandemic.
Close
At Ficci’s International Conference on Pharmaceutical & Medical Device Sector, Piyush Goyal also said that developed countries are under pressure. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse(REUTERS)
At Ficci’s International Conference on Pharmaceutical & Medical Device Sector, Piyush Goyal also said that developed countries are under pressure. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse(REUTERS)

57 countries back India's demand for IPR waiver on Covid-19 vaccine: Goyal

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Ayshee Bhaduri, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 02:49 PM IST
  • In October of last year, India and South Africa proposed a TRIPS waiver for all WTO members to allow greater access to affordable Covid-19 healthcare facilities
Close
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announcing the social media guidelines on Thursday,(ANI Photo)
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announcing the social media guidelines on Thursday,(ANI Photo)

Self-regulating body, monthly compliance reports: Govt's social media guidelines

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 03:57 PM IST
So far, online news media has not been unregulated, with the information & broadcasting ministry brining it under its ambit last year, but not yet formalising rules for it.
Close
NSA Ajit Doval led the back-channel negotiations with his Pakistani counterpart that led to joint statement by the Indian defence ministry and the Pak military (PTI)
NSA Ajit Doval led the back-channel negotiations with his Pakistani counterpart that led to joint statement by the Indian defence ministry and the Pak military (PTI)

NSA Doval led secret back-channels talks with Pak for months before DGMO pact

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 03:26 PM IST
  • The first sign that India-Pakistan back-channel conversations were on track came this month when Pak army chief Gen Bajwa said it was time to extend a hand of peace in all directions
Close
The signboard of the Delhi High Court.
The signboard of the Delhi High Court.

Centre opposes same sex marriage in Delhi HC

By hindustantimes.com | Reported by Richa Banka | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 02:56 PM IST
The Centre on Thursday said in the Delhi high court that living together as partners and having sexual relationship by same sex couple not comparable with Indian family unit.
Close
A health worker shows Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, in Pune earlier in January this year. (HT file photo)
A health worker shows Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, in Pune earlier in January this year. (HT file photo)

India's healthcare workers balk at taking homegrown Covid-19 vaccine

Reuters, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 02:30 PM IST
  • India has vaccinated more than 10.5 million health and front-line workers since beginning its immunisation campaign on Jan. 16. But only 1.2 million, or about 11%, of them have taken COVAXIN, the locally developed vaccine from Bharat Biotech.
Close
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar.(HT photo)
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar.(HT photo)

'Needed level playing field': Govt announces new online media rules

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Shivani, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 03:35 PM IST
  • As per the new guidelines, social media platforms are required to disclose the first originator of mischievous tweet or message, the information and technology minister announced.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP