Transgenders should be given space to grow and rise higher

Pranita Roy
Sunday, 3 March 2019

Giving free education is not the solution to bring more transgenders under the blanket of education. These people have been deprived of their social right, identity and respect for years. Bullying, mockery and name calling has moved them away from the mainstream. Most of these had to forcefully quit education at a very young age because the heterosexual community didn’t find them to be normal in their society.
—Disha Pinky Shaikh (Spokesperson of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi)

Transgenders have been paving their way into the mainstream with all courage and will to make an inclusive society. Recently, Apsara Reddy was appointed as the first transgender spokesperson of Indian National Congress. Maharashtra, too, got its first transgender spokesperson of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, Disha Pinky Shaikh on February 23. 

In the past, Manabi Bandopadhyay was India’s first transgender principal of Krishnanagar Women’s College, Kolkata, Joyita Mondal (Mahi) is the first transgender judge of a Lok Adalat and a social worker from West Bengal, India. First transgender students are Sarang Punekar of Savitribai Phule Pune University and Sridevi of Mumbai University.

While it’s first for many in different sectors, there are several who are still lost in isolation. Although, these aforementioned names taking steps forward in mainstream, education has remained a far fetched vision or dream for the transgender community.

As Sakal Times has also repeatedly reported the takers of education from the community are very few. 
Most of the renowned universities have only one transgender student. Even Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) had only one transgender enrolled into their courses in Pune region, despite the fact that the open university had started a free education scheme for them. The national data of IGNOU has also observed very low response for the courses.

“Giving free education is not the solution to bring more transgenders under the blanket of education. These people have been deprived of their social right, identity and respect for years. Bullying, mockery and name calling has moved them away from the mainstream. Most of these had to forcefully quit education at a very young age because the heterosexual community didn’t find them to be normal in their society,” said Shaikh.

“The policy makers, education providers and reformers have to understand all these aspects first before even trying to provide them quality education. Only free education will not help but social and economical security, which are their primary and most essential requirement, needs to be given to this community, if we really want them to pursue education,” added Shaikh.

Transgenders are settled in an environment which doesn’t support education properly. Their traditional profession is begging, dancing and sex work which doesn’t allow them to healthily pursue education. Transgender stalwarts question if after begging, dancing and sex work, any energy is left in them for studying. If they are expected to quit their profession or society thinks it should be banned/stopped, then how will they earn their living? 

May be along with free education, hostel facility which will provide them a healthy environment to study and fellowships which will financially secure them, have to be brought in.

“Considering the present scenario where education is not easily available for heterosexuals in different parts of our country, then members of this community belong to more underprivileged section and providing education to them will take longer. One of the steps could be counselling transgender community to enrol into education and convince them that they will be secured. Education is the only way to bring reforms in the condition of the community,” said Shaikh.

After their family and society abandon them, transgenders find their shelter at their Guru’s home. It is all about Guru (teacher and guardian) to these Transgender Chela (student). It is known that the community members find their emotional, economical identity from their Gurus and then have social acceptance. Transgenders may get all the freedom under their Guru but are limited to obedience. 

“The ‘Guru-Chela’ system should end now. The new generation of Transgenders can’t be limited to this tradition. Many Gurus don’t support education for their ‘Chelas’. They hold them back from progressing in their life, mandating to follow the old tradition,” said transgender activist Sonali Dalvi.  
“But to leave the command of Gurus, these members need support from their family which they don’t have. Therefore, if after education they are unable to find jobs, then where will they go? This fear holds them back from taking a step ahead,” said Dalvi.

At the end, a question arises that when will our society be ready to accept all the genders and treat them equally? If we wish to see development in them, as a society, we need to develop ourselves as progressive and inclusive one. Social security is not the job of any government or policy maker or security personnel. As citizens of same society, it is our equal responsibility to give them a better space to grow and rise higher. 

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