Wish This Pension Could End Prejudice Too: Kashmiri Transgenders

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After Raj Bhavan accorded sanction to a financial scheme for Kashmiri transgender community, many beleaguered members kept wondering about the perennial prejudice they face for having a different orientation.

Hirra Sultan

EVEN as the long-awaited news finally delighted some of his community members, Shoaib sits akin to a thoughtful captive in his downtown home.

“I’m told that our community members—some of whom were abandoned, and dumped to die in isolation—have been finally made eligible for pension,” Shoaib, a young transgender, says, with a smirk.

“I wish this pension could end prejudice too!”

Transgenders who did not qualify for financial benefits under Jammu Kashmir Integrated Social Security Scheme (ISSS) will now be given monthly financial assistance of Rs.1000.

Under this “social security scheme” announced by Raj Bhavan on May 28, around 2000 pending pension cases of transgenders shall be resolved.

But Shoaib isn’t much hopeful.

“This pension is welcome, but what about judgment and wrath of people we earn, just because we don’t recognize ourselves with others,” the young transgender continues.

“So many of us feel suffocated because we cannot come out and tell people our identities, our orientations. People don’t even realize what pain they’re inflicting on us by judging us so harshly.”

In the present pandemic lockdown, Shoaib hardly feels any difference in his life. Even without it, he’s in his room all the time, unable to go out and live his life.

“My dad has been quite supportive in all of this but it was a shock for my mother,” he says.

“She couldn’t even comprehend what I was telling her. All that support and empathy ended there. No such thing is present in our society. I also want to go out and live my life on my terms. I also want to enjoy and feel good. But the truth is, if I were to, everyone would be hell bent on treating me as an untouchable. As an eyesore. Even a person with the best education will raise a sword against me, in the name of religion or society. There’s no place for us to go.”

Shoaib feels like a criminal sometimes, hiding from people and society all the time. He wants to shout out to people, at least hear him out.

“I would want people to leave aside religion, culture, society and look at us as humans for once,” he says. “We’re not that different. This is just a matter of sexual preference, nothing else. At least they can hear us out!”

For the fear of judgment, nobody knows about his orientations, as he talks to a select few from the transgender community. He’s afraid that someday he might’ve to tell his folks and face their reaction.

“COVID patients are being treated as untouchables and many cases of violence have been reported,” Shoaib continues.

“So their families help them hide, safeguard them. When we tell our families about our inclinations, they’re the first people to disown us. Even though they’re blood relations and the people who bought us into the world in the first place. Yet they don’t blink an eye while turning us away. We’re treated as if we are a disease itself.”

He feels suffocated by hiding who he is, and feigning being someone else, but finds himself at a dead end. There’s no other option for him. Once out of the closet, he fears all the repercussions.

“I prefer this temporary calm where nobody knows about me,” he says. “I know things are going to get worse in the future but why ruin today thinking of that.”

Social stigma and isolation are not the only issues. Even when these transgenders come out of the closet, people, even the educated ones, instead of trying to understand their perspective just label them and then stay away.

“Nobody tries to even understand what it means to be transgender,” Musaib, another community member, says. “At least they should try to see the world from our eyes before criminalizing us.”

People, he says, are staunchly against them, and their feelings.

“For anyone to understand us, or take a learning from the lockdown, they need to be open to listen to our story,” he says.

“As badly as the Indian state is behaving towards the Muslim COVID patients and Tableeg-i-Jama’at members, without any rationalization or sanity, the same is being meted out to the transgender community and this is not something new or induced.”

People think, he continues, that because transgenders do not adhere to the societal norms, they can be treated like dirt.

“As if we are devoid of any emotions,” Musaib sounds heartbroken when he says this. “As if our orientation gives people a right to abuse us. As if we are creation of a lesser god!”

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