TMJ Special Top Stories

The Third Gender3 min read

April 4, 2015 3 min read


The Third Gender3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Transgenders have always intrigued people. When you see them out on the road, they immediately catch your attention; just long enough for you to notice what they are doing but never long enough that you actually observe and understand them. Transgenders in India, while officially recognised as the third gender, still struggle to lead a normal life across the country.

According to Kajal, a transgender from Udupi district, it is very hard to pinpoint the time when she figured out that she was having female tendencies. Kajal was born as a boy but today she walks around proudly in a saree.

“When I was growing up, I had very little interest to go out and play with the other boys. I was far more interested in going shopping with my mom. I used to pester her about the purse or saree she used to buy from the shops. Even from my walking style, it was noticeable from an early age that I was a transgender. So at the age of 12, I had a sex change operation (from male to female). Today, I’m a woman. A to Z, I’m a woman.”

Kajal and three of her friends – Nagma, Priya and Diamond – live together in a rented apartment. All four of them have recognized themselves as transgenders.

In 2013, the Government of Karnataka, launched a scheme to help sexual minorities. “It’s a good thing that the government is looking to help us. But the problem with accepting government schemes is that we have to openly admit that we are transgender and that opens us to be criticized by the society,” says Ashwath, a transgender activist from Udupi. “While the money is helpful, we have to identify ourselves as a transgender to collect it. Government officials keep coming to our house. I was even asked to take a test in the district hospital once to prove that I was a transgender”.

Kajal applied for this particular government scheme. But even with the scheme backing them, Kajal and her friends could not open a beauty parlour because the money was nowhere near enough and no bank would give them a loan.

Nagma elaborates saying “Whenever there is a marriage in our village, we would offer to do the mehendi on the night before the wedding. After some time of doing this, we decided to pursue our dream of opening a beauty parlour. We have beauty products in our house and we even underwent a beautician course in Manipal.”

But despite their best efforts, they have not yet been successful in their ventures. The bureaucracy of the government coupled with lack of money has stopped them from fulfilling their dream.

The District Comissioner of Udupi Vishal R said, “We helped them by sending them to a beautician course in Manipal. We are only trying to help them in whatever way we can. The government scheme entitled to them gives them Rs. 20,000 but the money is not enough for them to set up the beauty parlour. But we managed to help them obtain voter ID, and ration card.”

There was a major breakthrough last year when transgenders were officially recognised as the third gender in India. A transgender was employed in the Karnataka High Court. A transgender even went on to win an election and become mayor in Chattisgarh. But bizarre incidents of transgender oppression continue to occur across the country. The society has not yet adjusted to accepting transgenders as normal human beings. Even today, most transgenders are seen begging or worse: turning to sex work.

“Transgenders turn to this option because it is easy money. You may have seen transgenders begging on trains and railway stations. They do it because it is easier to make money begging than to earn money through a normal job,” says Priya, who holds a BBM degree from Bellary but finds it difficult to get a job.

Today, the four transgenders dance in a bar in Mumbai. “The money is good. And it is not easy for a transgender to attain a stable job,” says Priya. However one wonders whether their dreams of opening a beauty parlour may ever come to fruition.


Edited by Nadia Lewis