The gender in question

The Madras High Court’s recent judgment in Perrumal Murugan Case may have been a reason to celebrate for the votaries of the freedom of speech and expression (under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution) but for me it was a reminder of something else.
The gender in question
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The Madras High Court's recent judgment in Perrumal Murugan Case may have been a reason to celebrate for the votaries of the freedom of speech and expression (under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution) but for me it was a reminder of something else. Basically all the controversy revolved around the Tamil Nadu based novelist Perrumal Murugan's novel 'One Part Women' in which he has narrated a story of a couple and related it to the chariot festival of god Aaradhanareeshwara. And this is what I was actually interested in. God Aaradhanareeshwara, as per the Hindu mythology, is a 'half male half female' god—a masculine and feminine meet of Shiva and Parvati/Shakti ('aaradha'-'naree'-'eshwara'). This meet in philosophical parlance melted the notion of gender. So now nobody could ask the question whether God was male or female or neutral for that matter. There was no doubt a symbolism attached to this which only the wise could comprehend.       

It is unconventional to connect things having nothing to do with each other, but sometimes it is irresistible to do the same. So here it is. We have been talking too much about gender and gender related discriminations now. We have had so many discussions and debates regarding parity between a man and a woman. Yet there has always been one problem when it comes to our rumblings regarding gender and that is our failure to look beyond the pale of the 'male-female' binary. For how many times have we talked about transgenders? Not many. 

We have often unwarrantedly clubbed transgenders together with lesbians, gays and bisexuals. This is the biggest misconception breeding in our minds. Recently the Supreme Court of India too refused to modify its 2014 orders in which it had held that transgenders were a separate community thus clarifying that lesbians, gays and bisexuals were not transgenders. Therefore it is not justifiable to include the word 'T' in 'LGBT' which rather should be bifurcated into 'LGB' and 'T'. LGB traits may be a result of one's choice—or howsoever the science puts it—but being a transgender is a natural and biologically dictated trait rather than a deliberately chosen one. As per the Census of 2011 there are about 5 lakh transgenders in India (their population in J&K is more than 4000).    

It is undeniable that women have always faced discriminations in this world but as far as the transgenders are concerned, their conditions have always been inexplicably depressing and deplorable. They have faced severe socio-economic constraints with some unfounded stigmas and taboos attached to them. There has been a historical discrimination and exclusion foisted onto them. Even too often the transgender children have been abandoned by their parents. Given these realities don't we think that our attitude towards transgenders needs a change? Yes of course.

Rather than making transgenders a cynosure for bad reasons, passing lewd comments, ridiculing and making fun of them, we need to accept them as a part of this society as normal and natural human beings. They need to be given equal opportunities, honour and dignity. The society needs to be sensitized regarding them. No doubt the world is waking up to this reality now with the steps like teachers in Britain being told to address students as 'pupils' and not as 'boys' or 'girls', a gender neutral title 'Mx.' apart from 'Mr.' and 'Ms.' being mooted in India' along with a plan for providing reservations to transgenders, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill in the making, yet there is still a long way to go before transgenders could see themselves as acceptable and respectable beings of this society. 

I once asked my teacher about this issue of gender and he told me that God just creates a human being and not a 'male', a 'female' or a 'transgender'. And that was precisely when I realised that the whole issue of gender required a rethought. That alone would demolish the notions of gender—at least as it is understood today—and then only we could put an end to gender related segregation and discrimination within societies in the fields of profession, work, functions, qualifications, manners and education. We never choose to be men or women or transgenders and yet we are born as one. After all there is someone else calling the shots and that someone is surely not a human being. Thus when God doesn't discriminate between genders, who are we to do so?  

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