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#puneonmymind: Disha Shaikh on how gender identity, equality needs to be taught to students and teachers, alike

Activist believes that our education system lacks the basic knowledge of how everyone in the LGBT(lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community comes to be. The transition is not an overnight process.

pune Updated: Jul 18, 2018 15:41 IST
Pune,Disha Shaikh,gender identity
Disha Shaikh, transgender rights activist. (SANKET WANKHADE/ HT PHOTO )

The boys did not consider me one among them as my body language was feminine. And since I was biologically a man, the girls kept their distance as well. I was mentally suffocating because of this. The students could not understand my existence and that was natural. Therefore, they reacted and treated me in a derogatory manner as well. The idea of acceptance was not a topic of discussion back in the day. Today, a handful of schools in the city may speak about it, but in the rural areas, the children of my community still face the same torture that I faced.

Sexual and gender education is opposed to by the parents of students to begin with. In turn, even my teachers could not understand what I was going through. The solution is that gender (identity and equality) should be a part of education for students and teachers alike.

Cases of child sexual abuse will also benefit from teachers who can understand the equality of gender. After all, it is between the teacher and pupil that the roots of a responsible society are sowed.

Thirdly, gender is not just intersex. Intersex cases are biologically rare. But transgenders are born as biological males or females and are determined as ‘trans’ after certain hormonal changes. The transition between male and female happens at a certain age, but while they are transitioning, trans children are biological male or female. This transition and definition of transgenders should be completely clear to the teachers.

Our education system lacks the basic knowledge of how everyone in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community comes to be. The transition is not an overnight process. Educated children will make for educated teachers who will in turn make an educated society and parents in the truest sense of the term. The education of children, therefore, is of utmost importance for a better future of the transgender community.

For the parents who already have grown trans children, counselling can help. However, the options for counselling for LGBT by the municipal corporation are dismal; next to non-existent.

Private organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGO) are working but they only work as per their capacity. The basic responsibility of ensuring counselling and advice for transgenders lies with the government.

Not just counselling, but medical facilities should also be made available. Barring a few hospitals in urban area, the doctors at hospitals in rural and distant places of the district have neither the sensitivity nor the equipment to provide such care. And not just the basic medical care. The transgenders who earn through sex work contract diseases like AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres and healthcare centres are the need of the hour for them. If they do not have enough to eat, no strength to earn money and pay for medication, how are they expected to survive? Therefore, healthcare centres should have accommodation facility as well.

The ones who are healthy will work, earn and feed themselves, but the ones affected by HIV should be provided with accommodation, food and medical care. We must remember that besides failing health, these people also lack the important element of family support.

This is true for transgenders of all ages. It affects transgender children the most, especially the ones who wish to study. The women and child development department has hostels for school and college-going children. Why not reserve one or two places in the hostel for transgender students? That will instil a sense of security among transgender children and encourage them to get an education. Here, I am not raising a demand for reservation in all fields. Once we prove ourselves in achieving the basics like education, the other chips will fall in place.

We want to be accepted as human beings first; acceptance in caste and other social structures will follow. We will not need reservation if our basic existence is accepted in the mainstream social fabric.

Transgender teenagers should be inculcated into the system and given enough resources and training based on their IQ. To be a part of the competition, my people need to have a place at the beginning of the line. My friend begs and funds her studies. Her stationery, accommodation, medical, research work, travel is all at the mercy of the alms she collects. Why is she not able to avail the research fellowships that the government grants? There is no counselling available for legal, medical, mental, educational or physical advice.

Even the ones who have gained employment after 2014, when the third gender was accepted as a legal gender, face a different set of problems.

West Bengal’s Maanvi Chatopadhyay, who was appointed as the principal of a girls’ college, had to resign in six months of her appointment. Why did the girls and women there not support her? The lack of gender education has rendered these women insensitive towards the plight of other people.

First Published: Jul 17, 2018 14:50 IST