People from the transgender community are often known as people who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. According to Wikipedia,
“Transgender is also an umbrella term: in addition to including people whose gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex (trans men and trans women), it may include people who are not exclusively masculine or feminine (people who are genderqueer or non-binary, including bigender, pangender, genderfluid, or agender). Other definitions of transgender also include people who belong to a third gender or conceptualize transgender people as a third gender. Infrequently, the term transgender is defined very broadly to include cross-dressers, regardless of their gender identity.”
The Supreme Court of India officially declared transgender as the third gender in Indian law in April 2014. The transgender community in India has a long history in India and in Hindu mythology. Justice KS Radhakrishnan noted in his decision that,
“Seldom, our society realizes or cares to realize the trauma, agony and pain which the members of Transgender community undergo, nor appreciates the innate feelings of the members of the Transgender community, especially of those whose mind and body disown their biological sex”.
Even though the law allows almost as much freedom to transgenders, or the ‘third gender’ as the others, their dignity and self-esteem seldom gets lost amongst prejudices and stereotypes against them. Even though legally accepted, they are not socially accepted or included as members of the society with dignity and respect. From facing discrimination in public spaces to finding a bathroom where they won’t be looked upon as alien creatures, the transgender community goes through it all.
Meet Gauri Sawant, a 37-year-old Mumbaikar also known as Khala. People know Gauri Sawant from the Vicks advertisement that went viral on YouTube, gaining more than nine million views. Gayatri, Gauri’s adopted daughter recalls the story of how she got adopted in the advertisement, bringing a humane side to the fight for transgender rights in India.
Gauri is a transgender social activist hailing from a conservative family in Pune. Raised by her grandmother, Gauri always felt more inclined towards the female gender and secretly started dressing up as a woman. She chose wearing kurtas as they could be thought of as gender neutral clothes and would not have to face derogatory remarks for wearing the same. Gauri left her home and came to Mumbai after her family could not accept her transition to a woman. Humsafar Trust founded by Ashok Row Ravi, is the largest and oldest LGBTQ organization in India, covering the issues of sexual minorities in our country. Humsafar Trust helped her transit from a man to a woman, from Ganesh to Gauri. Even when she had no roof over her head, Gauri and Ashok started an NGO in 2000 in Malad, Mumbai. ‘Sakhi Char Chowghi’ aims to provide space of freedom to all transgenders in the city. They also promote safe sex with counselling. She continues to fight for basic rights, even when it has been three years since they were recognised as a third gender.
Gauri is a proud mother. She raises her daughter Gayatri like a regular mother and has high hopes and dreams for her. She has the freedom to do whatever she wants to do in the future, although Gayatri says that she wants to be a lawyer to fight for her mother’s rights and every other member of the transgender community so that they can live with equal rights as the other two genders.
Image Source: Mid-Day.com