With social spaces for diversity shrinking, the recent suicides in the transgender community should be a wake-up call for better support structures
In the past 10 days, three transpersons took their lives in Kerala and Karnataka. 18-year old Sujata (name changed), a female to male (FTM) transgender (TG) wanted to go back to her family. But when her family rejected her on account of her gender, she drank poison. A few days later, unable to cope with society’s humiliation, Kamesh (name changed), a male to female (MTF) TG committed suicide.
The death of Deepu, a working class FTM in Trichur, threw the community in a sense of gloom. While less than two hours away, Calicut was celebrating a queer pride march, Deepu killed himself on the rail tracks in Trichur. An incredible singer and story teller, Deepu was a minority within a minority, who was very active, remembers Akkai Padmashali of rights organisation Sangama in Bangalore, who worked with Deepu in the past.
“This is not the fault of Deepu but a failure of the government and society, which are not addressing issues concerning sexual minorities even as discriminatory practices are perpetuated against us on a daily basis. The government, judiciary and society are morally responsible for this,” says Akkai.
To mourn Deepu’s death, a screening of the film Kalvettukal, directed by Gee Ameena Suleiman, was screened in the Capital. The multilingual docu-fiction film about transgender men in South India, through its three chapters – Our Stories, Our Desires and Our Voices, explores the lives, desires and issues of transgender men. Deepu had taken part in the film as a narrator of the dramatised version of a true love story. Tanmay, part of the group that organised the screening says that when it comes to FTM issues, there is little or no space for them and they are rarely talked about even in feminist and LGBT circles.
“Non governmental organisations focus on MSM (males who have sex with males) and MTF issues as HIV AIDS funding money comes to them. There is a weird understanding that sex is only through penetration and without that there is no risk to HIV. It is an extension of patriarchy only where female bodies’ sexuality is ignored and historically marginalised even within a minority.”
While there are few structures of support for the transcommunity in general, there are even fewer for FTMs and injustices often go unreported with no recourse to aid. Given all the discrimination that continues day after day against the community (from boarding a bus to getting a house to sustaining a job to getting education) there is an urgent need for psychological and emotional support structures, says Tanmay.
A couple of years ago, there were a spate of hijra suicides in Bangalore, but clearly nothing has been done yet, she adds.
“What is the concerned authority doing? Where is the protection, social recognition and social space for us? We, as a movement have to think how we are going to address these issues before the society and state,” says Akkai.