METRO PLUS

Beyond binaries

Opportunities for allNeelam Jain (centre) and Steevez Rodriguez (right) of the PeriFerry teamVigneshwaran

Opportunities for allNeelam Jain (centre) and Steevez Rodriguez (right) of the PeriFerry teamVigneshwaran  

Ever looked at a transgender begging at a signal and wondered why they can’t get jobs instead? After all, they look fit enough. But how many of us will actually rub shoulders with them at a workplace? Or for that matter, how many employers will willingly hire a transperson and sensitise the workforce about an inclusive work atmosphere? These are questions that bothered Neelam Jain, who decided to turn her thoughts into action and set up PeriFerry along with Steevez Rodriguez, a freelance photographer.

The two-month-old startup aims to help transpeople in the city find respectable jobs. “One of the most common misconceptions people have about transgenders is that they are not well qualified. That is far from the truth. There are several transgenders who hold postgraduate degrees and are qualified engineers and doctors, among others,” says Jain.

Take for instance, Regina. The 23-year-old is an engineer and has attended several interviews with corporates ; several of them walk-ins. Despite the initial welcome, the minute the HR personnel realised that she was a transperson, the reactions became guarded. And despite clearing several rounds of the interview, she would not hear from them. That is, until she met Jain and through PeriFerry landed the job of an outlet manager at a food takeaway chain.

The lack of inclusive workspaces for transpeople had been on Jain’s mind for a while. She had herself worked with an MNC for a couple of years, before she decided to branch out and set up PeriFerry. “That was in January this year. We spent a couple of months researching and formally set up PeriFerry in April and reached out to NGOs working with transpeople. By May we went live on Facebook,” she says.

All in the game

The company currently has two primary functions — finding candidates via NGOs and placing them in secure jobs; and sensitising workforces in these companies to work with their new colleagues. “We ensure employees understand them and hold programmes and workshops towards this cause. There are training and development programmes for the candidates as well, to enable better integration. In terms of sensitising the workforce, we leave the decision up to the company; though it cannot be a one-time affair. They need follow ups every couple of months to be able to erase years of stigma,” says Jain.

Regina was the first transgender to be placed by PeriFerry and since, the company has placed five people. The jobs have ranged from food outlets, B2B sales, medical billing to BPOs. “We’ve also approached corporates, but the process is very slow with them,” she says.

Jain and her team are also working with transgenders who are commercial sex workers and beggers. “We have a psychologist on board who talks to them and we try and figure out what kind of jobs they’d like. We can’t just place them anywhere as they are also rather hesitant about interacting with people from the non-transgender community,” she explains.

One of the major roadblocks PeriFerry faces while placing transpeople is the mismatch in certificates in terms of gender and names. “Smaller companies might be willing to accomodate this, but it is harder with corporates. Paperwork proves to be a glitch in most cases and that can be frustrating. Tamil Nadu that way is a pioneer in terms of ensuring trans rights. But we still have a long way to go and things have slowed down in the State,” she says.

The three-member company works out of co-working space Karya in Mylapore and Jain, says there is a lot of field work involved. “One thing we need to watch for though, is that the company hiring a transperson isn’t doing it to simply make their brand look good. Others think they’re doing them a favour by hiring them. Truth is it is their right. We need to ensure that when we place them with a company, we’re giving them a safe workspace. People need to look at them for their skill sets and not for being transgenders,” says Jain.

We need to ensure

that when we place them with a company, we’re

giving them a safe

workspace

Myths busted

Most people think Transgenders are gay. But gender identity and sexual orientation are two completely different things. One is what gender we see ourselves as being. The other is what gender(s) and sex(es) we are physically and romantically attracted to.

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