Death is not apolitical, says a person at the gathering of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Report- Ritwik Dutta
Transgender Day of Remembrance is held in December in honour of Rita Hester who was murdered on November 28, 1998. The following year “Remembering Our Dead” web project was launched and a vigil was organised in San Francisco.
In the year 1999, a trans person and an advocate known as Gwendolyn Ann Smith started the tradition of observing 20th November as a day to honour the memory of Rita Hester, who was brutally stabbed 20 times in her own apartment in Massachusetts on the 28th of November 1998.
The event provides a forum for the people of the transgender community and allies to raise awareness of the threat of violence faced by people from the community. It speaks about the violence, prejudices and discrimination faced by the people from the marginalised community.
On this day, people usually gather, reorganise and talk about the people lost from the community due to different forms of discrimination and prejudices towards them. In some places, they also organise activities like photography, poetry sessions or vigils to commemorate the loss of people.
One such event was organised by volunteers in Delhi at Jantar Mantar where they gathered at around 2 pm.
One of the volunteers talked about the importance and background of the vigil while some of the other attendees spoke about the people lost by them.
“Death is not apolitical; we often see death as non-political but it is not the case. We lose people due to structural failure to bring communities together. The community people living and surviving in this system itself is political and so do the one who lost their lives.
The brutality towards the people, the lack of media coverage or sensitised media coverage of issues and a fractured structure are reasons why people from the community are losing their lives or being brutally murdered.
On the one hand, another person from the community also speaks about how according to the Transgender Persons Act, the penalty for offences against a transgender person may vary from 6 months to 2 years with an inadequate fine for crimes like sexual abuse, rape and criminal assault, which is also bailable in nature.
According to Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement of NALSA V. Union of India speaks about the constitutional right to self-identify as a male, female, transgender or intersex person irrespective of medical intervention.
Whereas the transgender act totally dismisses the judgement as under the Transgender Persons Act, 2019, the Act makes it mandatory for individuals to apply for a Transgender certificate which will further allow them to avail different provisions under different government schemes like Ayushman Bharat and SMILE schemes. The different sets of rules under the Transgender Persons Bill, 2020 makes it an intrusive process to obtain the Transgender Certificate as people from the community are abandoned by their families or lack legal documentations to access those schemes.
The gathering was organised in several other places like Bangalore, Kolkata and in several college institutions.
Talking to one of the people from the community, Ray (name changed due to privacy concerns) mentions, “We lose people every year. Accessibility to every space is a challenge right from the metro to taking an auto, in the metro, it is often men’s or women’s sections, public washrooms are a nightmare where the gender binary is clearly reflected and we are rejected from either of those spaces. My legal documents aren’t changed, and I have no money as due to lack of education I cannot find myself a job to afford to get my new documents with my preferred name. In such a position, I am questioned and ridiculed at every space, how do you think this is an acceptable society? These might sound small but these dysfunctionalities take away lives, living and being alive is a challenge but we will keep fighting.”
Another person Maitrayee (name changed) states, “I identify as a Dalit transwoman but I have to stay in a men’s hostel because I have not undergone legal or medical transition.
I am afraid of my life consistently but I have to pursue my education for sustainability and a better livelihood. Sometimes I am confused about why am I discriminated against, Is it because of my gender or caste or maybe both?”
The gathering ended with 2 minutes of silent mourning at the end.
The Society: On the path to becoming Trans-friendly, but a long way off from it
There are organisations, companies, government officials, diversity and inclusion policies coming up along with engagements around government schemes.
Several of the PIL filed in courts are still pending seeking rights for the people of the community
Several policy-level changes are being incorporated in healthcare, educational and corporate sectors to empower people of the community.
The fight is not easy, it is a long way of struggle. However, on an individual and personal level, we can begin by thinking about how can we offer accommodation to the people so that no such vigil is anymore required to be organised in the coming time.