Transgender activist Priya Babu has attempted suicide three times. Author of four books dealing with the lives of transgenders, Priya said she had a number of reasons. “A lack of recognition in the community and love failures were what led to my attempts at ending my life,” she says.
Suicides in the transgender community often go under-reported due to their gender, say LGBT activists and social workers. Those who have undergone sex-change operations are registered under a third gender by police, but those who haven’t are generally classified as male suicides, they said.
“Many transgenders lie on railways tracks and end their lives. However, when a case is registered by police, it is classified as a male’s death, and so does not add to records of transgender suicides,” says activist Kalki Subramaniam.
These deaths do not attract enough attention as the transgender community is marginalised, she adds.
The vicious cycle which culminates in the suicide of a transgender begins with rejection by their families. “Families don’t accept them and they are forced out of the house,” said Sunil Menon, a fashion designer and LGBT rights activist.
As they struggle to come to grips with their identity, says Sunil, their education suffers. In the absence of proper training and education, a transgender has to resort to either sex work or begging.
Their profession is really harsh on them as they are subjected to various forms of abuse, says transgender model Mallaika.
A transgender subjected to harassment seeks refuge in alcohol and drugs, increasing their vulnerability to suicide, said Sunil. “The final straw can be a break-up of a relationship,” said Magdalene Jeyarathnam, who offers individual counselling session for LGBT individuals.
When it comes to recognising the rights of the transgender community, Tamil Nadu has fared better than other States, said Kalki. “But government enforcement agencies are not sensitised about the issues the community faces, nor do they have the levels of awareness needed to deal with the transgender community,” said A.J. Hariharan, Director of Indian Community Welfare Organization.