The world over transgender people faces a lot of unique challenges that straight persons will never understand. However, we can put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand their issues. However, this may not be a complete understanding of the subject but can be an ice breaker for starting a discussion about the need for transgender rights. Before we delve into the topic, we need to understand the distinction between the terms as ‘SeX’ and ‘Gender’. Sociologists differentiate these two as the first being biological construct of a human body and second being a sociological construct of one self. In simple terms, ‘SeX’ of a person is determined by one’s X and Y chromosomes whereas ‘gender’ shows how that person wants to be identified as.
We refer to one as a transgender person when one feels the mismatch between one’s biological self and social self. This mismatch leads to one being identified as a transgender person. This identity still comes with a lot of social taboos in countries like India, where society do not accept these people as they are. Coupled with this, the prevailing gender norms make things worse. Such gender stereotypes, however, destroy many children when they can’t fit suitably to their gender roles.
Researchers of Gender Identity Project (GIP), A project to help understand transgender basics, classifies gender as a fluid concept rather than being a binary (M/F) concept. According to this concept, one’s gender is determined by various psycho-somatic factors and hence can’t be considered as binary. So, most of the normal persons like us are ‘Mostly Males’ or ‘Mostly Females’ instead of being ‘males’ or ‘females’.
Since one’s gender identity is governed by psychological factors, it is accepted by psychologists that such S3XUAL Orientation Identity may change throughout one’s life.
Social psychologist Darryl Bem of Cornell University showed that our gender identity needs confirmation in our childhood by existing social norms of acceptable gender behavior. When the existing social gender norms create a sense of mismatch in a child’s mind, one will become se*xually non-conforming child and will feel ‘different’ from his own gender. This will eventually lead to him getting se*xually attracted to the people of the same gender. Sociologist Peter Bearman of Colombia University has shown that same se*x attraction can be created by presenting enough socially structured opportunities.
Childhood abuse, parental alienation, single parent children etc. are sighted by many psychologists as one being homose*xuals or a bise*xual. So, it’s not only the chromosome issues (XXY or XYY chromosomes) that make one a homo or bi se*xual. There are a lot of social parameters as well.
In developing countries like India, there is one more factor associated with this transgender behavior. People (mainly men) act like transgenders without being one, for earning easy money. In a research based Bengali Documentary film, ‘Jenana’, Barshali Chatterjee has shown the story of a poor man from a WB village turning to a Jenana (one class of transgenders, who are males but live like women).
In conservative societies like India, the first challenge a child face is to communicate to his parents about his Trans identity. In one such case in WB, when the child told her parents that she identified herself as a male instead of having female organs, her parents tried to force upon her the female gender identity. There were family feuds, daily quarrels, and social obstruction before she was accepted by everyone as a male. She is a successful ‘male’ lawyer in WB now.
The challenge is more for boys who identify themselves as girls. Their ‘feminine’ behavior scares other boys away. Not only they are bullied by stronger boys but also ostracized by the society more for their typical ‘feminine’ acts.
For these people, getting into any socially acceptable role and excel in that is a major challenge. Society does not accept them like other ‘normal’ persons, they are considered incapable and always discriminated against. Our workforce needs to be specially trained to accept such people with open hearts. This is the reason the transgender people may be seen as excelling in Individual contribution roles (like filmmakers, hair stylist, fashion designer, artists etc) but not in normal office based CXO roles.
This is why transgender people live in their own community, their own way. Here others don’t shame them and they learn typical hijra culture.
With increasing acceptance, more people are openly identifying themselves as transgenders. The list of successful transgender people is also very long. However, this is not all that we can do for them. If we want to stop them extorting money from male train passengers or male bikers in every crossing, we need to not only educate them with mainstream population but also we need to induct them in our workforce with proper dignity. Many MNCs operating in India are embracing diversified workforce and training their employees in the same. But it is only restricted to few known MNCs. If we want to change the situation for transgenders then we first need to give them financial freedom and that can come from inducting them in our workforce. If we can bring them to mainstream population and economically empower them (not by extortion but by employment generation) rest of their issues can easily be tackled.