Gender needs to be consensual, argued the recently released study report on Queer Person Assigned Gender Female at Birth (PAGFB) by LABIA – A Queer Feminist Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) collective.

LABIA, a Mumbai-based autonomous, voluntary collective, with a focus on queer and feminist activism, released the report last week in Mumbai.

“However, my headmistress insulted me in front of all by saying, How can she be captain as she smooches girls?” said Nidhi, a queer PAGFB, in one of the interviews given for this study report called ‘Breaking the Binary’.

Similar interviews of around 50 queer PAGFB across the country from different caste, class and religion backgrounds and conversations with several LBT collectives have framed the study report to understand the concerns and realities of PAGFB. The report has highlighted the specific ways in which they are isolated, harassed and discriminated against in every sphere, both personal and public. The names in the report have been changed to protect the identity of the interviewees.

The authors of the report arrived at the term PAGFB independently during the discussion in the context of the study. It reflects the understanding that none of us is born with a readymade gender; gender is assigned to us at birth based on the traditional conflation of sex, particularly, of the external genitalia, with gender. This assigned gender may or may not match a person’s own sense of gender. All respondents of this study are PAGFB, though not all of them belong to the “female gender” or consider themselves as women.

The report, which portrays the lives of 50 individuals from their school to professional life, has found lack of support from family, school and even from State machineries, such as the police. “Gender-segregated spaces remained vexed even in the metropolis: public-toilets, reserved seats on buses and trains and security checks in malls or airports were often sites of harassment and abuse for those PAGFB who did not happen to pass as women,” said the report.

Tales of discrimination from the individuals interviewed in the report present the picture of society which is not ready to accept queer PAGFB. “Considering the patriarchal nature of our society, all PAGFB tend to face greater violence and discrimination within the family. And when non-normative gender and sexuality enter the equation, things become even worse. Natal families emerge in this study as one of the most important sites for intervention, so that they can become supportive and safe spaces that allow the young to make real choices, even if these do not conform to the norms of the world around and in order to alter society’s prescriptions around gender and sexuality,” observed the report.

The report talks also points out non-cooperation from the police authorities when it comes to the complaints of queer PAGFB. “None of the respondents who faced violence managed to get police help even when they tried,” noted the report.

Analysing the public appearance of queer PAGFB, the report has pointed out that as adults, many of the respondents felt most comfortable meeting their friends in homes and other private places. But it has also pointed out that some persons feel safe meeting in public places because the strict gender segregation in our society allows for intimate friendships between people of the same gender.

The report, while suggesting various possible steps to solve the problem, has stressed upon encouraging all PAGFBs to acquire economic independence to resist various pressures to conform to societal norms. It has argued for conscious effort of introducing such textbooks which are inclusive of different lived realities.

“All of us perhaps need to change how we think, work and behave and start asking each person how they identify, rather than read, assume and attribute a gender to them,” said the report.