Just when the transgender rights movement was picking up some steam, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns began and the community is suffering like never before. The problems of this sexual minority are unique, as has been documented, but the solutions need teamwork and support from the larger society.
Right now, the transgender community is unable to work, with or without dignity. In Hyderabad alone there are more than 3,000 transgenders and another 2,000 elsewhere in the State. Many of them earn their livelihood by seeking alms during the day and some resort to flesh trade at night, but with lockdown in place members of the community are suffering. A large number of transgenders in the State is unable to fetch a single meal per day, while some who live in a small group are going to bed on empty stomachs.
Realising their plight as they are not even able to seek alms in the four-hour lockdown relaxation, the transgenders or third-gender people are requesting the owners of grocery and vegetable shops to donate some grains and vegetables for their group. “Both begging and prostitution are demeaning works. Because there is no other choice, we are forced to do it in order to survive, as there are no dignified or decent jobs for us in the society,” transgender right activist Rachana Mudraboina said.
According to Mx. Rachana, the first and second wave of COVID-19 and the lockdowns had hampered a lot of the community members, whose families have disowned them due to their gender identity. “As our existence is not documented in government records, we are not entitled to any social schemes, including free rice from fair price shops, launched by both State and Central governments,” she said.
With no Aadhaar cards and other government IDs for their new identity in the society, they are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves from the deadly virus. Apart from Mx. Rachana, other representatives of the community said that the second wave had hit them badly in the sense of infection and deaths. “Second wave is horrible. It took away some of our dear and loved ones,” they said.
With no help from the government, influential representatives of the community are crowd sourcing the funds to provide groceries and other essential supplies to the members. Thankfully, the Cyberabad police has recognised the issue and is helping out with groceries, counselling, legal aid and resolving their internal issues through their dedicated Transgender Help Desk at Gachibowli police station. The first-of-its-kind desk in the country, launched by the Commissioner of Police V.C. Sajjanar in March helps the community members in enrolment in National Transgender Portal, conducts awareness for job and dignified lifestyle, apart from job placements according to the qualification and skills.
As on Monday, the desk received 15 complaints, of them police registered FIRs in four cases and 11 were resolved through counselling.