It’s official. All government communication, henceforth, will use only the term transgender rather than ‘other gender’ or ‘third gender.’
The government, in an order, has said that transgenders should not be addressed as ‘third gender’ or ‘other gender’ or ‘people with different sexual orientation’ [‘Bhinnalaingikam’]. All official communication will employ the term transgender. The order also says that the term transgender will be used till an equivalent word is found.
Use of the term transgender has been a long-standing demand of the community. Shyama S. Prabha, project officer, Transgender Cell, says the order is laudable. Use of the terms ‘other gender’ or ‘third gender’ that relate only to sex and sexuality in government communication and media and so on is offensive to transgenders, she says.
The Supreme Court’s NALSA judgment says that transgender is an umbrella term and includes many people, including cultural identities such as ‘hijra’ and ‘kinnar’ and intersex variations. So there is no need for the ‘other’ option, says Shyama.
Shyama said that when the Transgender Cell started functioning, it found that government documents such as budget reports or Plan books all used the term other or third gender.
This was brought to the attention of the government, and a detailed report on the terms used and what they connoted was submitted.
While the State government’s initiatives are employing the term transgender, the Union government’s documents still mention transgenders as other or third gender. “This begs the question who are the first and second genders. Transgender is a gender identity and we want that to be used,” says Shyama.
Biju Prabhakar, Special Secretary, Social Justice Department, says the order reiterates that all genders are equal.
Transgenders are not ‘third gender’ or inferior to the other two; they are another gender in addition to the masculine-feminine gender binary.
Even the use of ‘other’ or ‘different’ in reference to them is derogatory as it implies that the rest are normal. “Only transgenders understand the impact of such marginalisation. The order comes on their representation. There should be no ambiguity on using the term transgenders in official communication.”