Tenements for transgenders remain largely empty

social Exclusion:Members of the transgender community say people in the area refuse to talk to them and avoid the buildings they stay in.— Photo: Shaju John  

Eight months ago, the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board allotted 236 tenements to transgenders at the AIR land in Thiruvottiyur. While people from the community have been moving in, a majority of the tenements still remain unoccupied and empty.

“My work and livelihood — everything is here. People also know me here. How can I suddenly go to a faraway place and start from scratch,” asked Raji, a resident of Kilpauk. After years of requests and protests by members from the community, which began seven years ago, the State finally constructed and allotted two-room tenements for them.

Each house is worth Rs 3.85 lakh and was constructed under the Emergency Tsunami Reconstruction Project (ETRP). However of the total number, only around 40 are occupied by transgenders. “We were promised houses in the main city or in the resettlement tenements. But we have been completely isolated now,” said Rajniamma, a resident.

Discrimination, lack of opportunity to grow, and poverty are the main issues cited by residents. “We are ghettoised,” said Abhinaya, a resident. “Nobody wants to talk to us or even cross our buildings. We are struggling to eke out a living, let alone pay the monthly maintenance of Rs. 500. We approached the State as nobody would give us houses at a normal rate. Who do we do now?” she said.

The latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India mentioned that the Department of Social Welfare failed in providing group houses for transgenders. “We want to be mainstreamed and not given group houses,” said Bharathi.

A. Narayanan, director, CHANGEindia, said that creating group houses for the community will be a fatal error. “Gating this community will only worsen the stigma and discrimination they experience,” he said. “The idea should be to identify them, educate, provide employment and housing opportunities like the rest of the society. The State must create certain reservations for them even when they build houses,” he added.

“We hope that the second batch of houses, which we have been promised, will be amidst others and not isolated. We hope the authorities hear our plea,” said Kaviya, president, Thozhi.

Officials from the Department of Social Welfare were unavailable for comments.