Taking to sports proves an uphill task for transgender persons

Four transwomen practising throwball during their spare time at Kavundampalayam in Coimbatore.

Four transwomen practising throwball during their spare time at Kavundampalayam in Coimbatore. | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan

Transgender persons aspiring to enter sports are facing various hurdles such as lack of adequate number of coaches, training centres and incentives from the Tamil Nadu government.

S. Anushya, a transwoman, working as a taxi driver in Coimbatore for over seven years, says she had been interested in the martial art of Silambam since her childhood in Tiruchi. Her interest in sports grew after watching the Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016, on television. “I wanted to achieve something in life. When I watched the Olympics, I felt that I could participate in sports and contribute to the nation,” she recalls.

In 2020, she was one of the transwomen selected by Mangaiyanavan Foundation, an NGO in Coimbatore that focuses on engaging transgender persons in sports, after which she began learning the techniques of Silambam and other sports such as throw ball.

Ms. Anushya, however, laments the lack of sustained opportunities for transgender persons in sports. “We would get announcements that the match (for transgender persons) would be held on a particular date, but in the end, they would reject us for one reason or another,” she tells  The Hindu.

She, along with a group of transwomen, reside in a rented house at Edayarpalayam in Coimbatore. They practise Silambam and throw ball at a nearby ground maintained by the Coimbatore Corporation.

The house rent for transwomen are generally twice as high, she points out. “We have to look after our families and the elders in our (transgender) community. So, we are forced to earn twice the amount that a normal person would. Only after attending to all these, we could focus on activities like sports,” Ms. Anushya explains.

Another transwoman, Raghavi, says she has been a volleyball player since her school days, but has not received any opportunity to participate in volleyball events ever since her transition.

Jamila from Tiruppur, who has been a caterer in Coimbatore for around seven years, says she and other transwomen do not get the time to practise every day due to their day jobs and that they are able to focus on sports only during weekends. “We need separate coaches, sports clubs and incentives from the government,” she says.

Jamuna Rajavelappan, managing trustee of Mangaiyanavan Foundation, points out that sports authorities are yet to frame comprehensive guidelines for the participation of transgender athletes and that competitive sports continue to remain binary with only men and women participants. The absence of sustained opportunities forces many novice transgender athletes to quit sports at the early stage, she says.

In the past two years, the Coimbatore-based NGO has been able to organise a few throw ball tournaments for transgender persons and has taught Silambam for over 25 persons from the community. “Our objective is to create awareness on sports among the transgender persons,” Ms. Rajavelappan says, stressing that only the State government could undertake long-term initiatives to provide opportunities for transgender athletes.

According to an official from the Department of Social Welfare, 702 transgender persons in Coimbatore district have been issued identity cards so far and a few of them are availing themselves of schemes for entrepreneurship and other skill training initiatives. “We have not received any sports-related requests or grievances from them yet,” the official says.

R.P. Ravichandran, Coimbatore District Sports and Youth Welfare Officer, says some NGOs approached him recently regarding the conduct of an athletics meet for transgender persons in Coimbatore and that the works are “in the pipeline.” “We are not avoiding them. If they are interested in sports, we are encouraging them,” he adds.

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Printable version | May 15, 2022 10:29:22 pm |