Giggling among themselves, they talk about the fashion trends and their recent crushes just like any other normal friends do. However, unlike others who do it just for the sake of time-pass, they do it just to find some solace and companionship. “Our families do not accept us for what we are owing to the societal pressure. Therefore, the only people whom we can connect to are each other,” says Rinku, a transgender activist. A family away from home, it is here among the like-minded people that she finds love and respect.
“More than often people treat us like an object of which they can make fun. People whisper while looking at us, call us names and mistreat us,” says Reshma another transgender. This lack of sensitization is the reason why despite being a population of 4.9 lakhs, the transgender are often left without any proper facilities. Delhi has a shelter home for men, women, children, disabled and drug addicts but no measure as such for the transgender. “Being a minority in the country, we are left in a limbo. The government does not feel us investment worthy. There is only one single gender neutral toilet out there for us,” says Tona, an activist at Mitr Trust.
This lack of recognition in the society had also made the community, one of the worst hits of demonetization. While the NALSA judgment, 2014 provided the third gender a legal recognition, they still have to be recognized in PAN cards for them to avail banking facilities. “Few of our friends were not allowed to stand in line. There were people who were teasing us and the guards did nothing. They should have made separate line for the third gender as well,” says Tona. When asked how she exchanged her money, she said, “We used our traditional clapping style to enter the banks.”
The problem of lack of recognition in the society is further aggravated by the Transgender Bill 2016. While the 2014 verdict gave everyone the freedom to choose their own gender identity, the 2016 bill lays out clear guidelines on who can be transgender. “The bill is a complete disaster. It is an attack on the culture of Hijaras,” says Neetu.
While their families know about their orientation, they cannot embrace it openly. “Though they know about my femininity, I can never go back home in a womanly attire. It needs to be kept under wraps,” says Sneha, a TG activist. From next to the kin to the society, the community knows, it is a long battle ahead to win them over. All it wants is a little respect and social recognition. As Tona puts it, “People need to understand that gender is not what is between your legs, but, what is in your brain.”