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Transcending Barriers: Exploring the Assimilation of Transgender Individuals in Modern Society through Legal Frameworks

By Ayushi Keshri; 2nd year (Sem 4); S. S. Khanna Girls' Degree College (University of Allahabad)


Introduction

A modern man is often regarded as one who gives up traditional ways of thinking and feeling, who has an open mind to accept new ideas, who is rational and secular, and who believes in equality, freedom, and justice. Sometimes it’s easy for people to adapt to new norms of society but sometimes it just takes an ample amount of time, persistence, and persuading to instill new beliefs in people.

When the transgender culture came into our society, people often viewed it with contempt. They found it to be very unusual and unhabituated. People could not get a grip on how is it possible that a man could become a woman and vice versa. Some even started calling such people “diseased” or “mentally ill” and instead of supporting they suggested they visit a doctor or a therapist. These people were socially neglected, abused, and discriminated against on a large scale. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Nigeria, have even made laws that criminalize transgender and sodomy.

But eventually, this community started growing as more and more people started coming out and embracing their true identity.


“We are all assigned a gender at birth. Sometimes that assignment doesn’t match our inner truth, and there needs to be a new place- a place for self-identification.”

                                                                 -Geena Rocero


Many LGBTQ activists started raising awareness about the people of this community. They told people that transgender are also normal human beings and should be given all the rights and treated with equality. People started embracing this community and previous laws were quashed. Instead, new laws were enacted that provided peace, security, and justice to the transgender community.

This blog delves into the multifaceted journey of transgender assimilation in Indian society, focusing on the pivotal role of legal mechanisms in fostering inclusion and equality.

 

Assimilation of Transgender in Modern Society

In sociology and anthropology, assimilation is the process whereby individuals or groups of differing ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture of a society. Transgender people come from all walks of life. As per the 2011 census, the transgender population in India is around 4.88 lakh. As per the data from the USA, the transgender population made up 0.53% of the population, with a greater number of transgender MTFs (0.28%) than transgender FTMs (0.16%)[1].  They could be parents, siblings, co-workers, and friends. It comes as a surprise to most people but transgender, today, form a diverse community, representing ethnic and racial backgrounds, as well as all faith traditions.

The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Even though the term "transgender" and our contemporary meaning of it were just coined in the latter half of the 20th century, individuals who meet this definition have existed in all societies over the duration of history's written records. In India, there is a wide range of transgender-related identities which include the Hijras, Aravanis, Kothis, Jogtas/ Jogappas, and Shiv Sakthis. In the past, they were treated with great respect[2].

Emily Kazyak, a professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, published a 2011 study of rural communities, and found that what sets LGBT individuals apart from those in urban centers is twofold: a lack of Gay community in a visible form, and a limited vocabulary. Not only do LGBT individuals process their lives without friends and peers to talk to about their sexuality, but they don’t even have words to describe who they think they might be. [3]

This being stated, now it shouldn’t be so hard to understand why it is so difficult for transgender people to create their own distinct identity in society. Kilhefner, the gay theorist, firmly believes that “gay people must begin a radical new process of self-discovery that starts with what is inside of us.” But to do so, the most basic requirement is an open-minded community and a shared culture.

Today many activists are inclined towards giving the LGBTQ community a voice so they can freely present their needs and aspirations in front of society. Part of the process is to let go of the need to assimilate. Assimilation of transgender individuals is a complex topic that involves social, political, and cultural factors. It refers to the process of integrating transgender people into mainstream society and culture, often requiring them to conform to traditional gender roles and expectations.

However, it is important to note that assimilation is not always the best approach, as it can erase or minimize the unique experiences and identities of transgender individuals. Instead, efforts should be made to promote acceptance and understanding of transgender individuals as they are, rather than requiring them to conform to societal norms.

One way to promote acceptance and understanding is through education and awareness campaigns, which can help dispel myths and stereotypes about transgender people. Additionally, policies and laws can be implemented to protect the rights of transgender individuals, such as anti-discrimination laws and access to healthcare.

Ultimately, the goal should be to create a society where transgender individuals can live freely and authentically, without fear of discrimination or prejudice. This requires a shift in societal attitudes and norms, which can take time and effort but is essential for creating a just and equitable world.

 

How Laws have helped in the Assimilation of Transgenders in Society

Laws play a crucial role in the assimilation of transgender individuals into society by providing legal protections, rights, and recognition.

In 2014, the Supreme Court of India, in the case of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India[4], established the foundation for the rights of transgender persons in India by recognizing ‘transgender’ as the ‘third gender’ and laying down several measures for the prohibition of discrimination against transgender persons and protection of their rights. The judgment recommended reservations for transgender persons in jobs and educational institutions and the right of transgender persons to declare their self-perceived gender identity without undergoing a sex reassignment surgery[5].

In 2016, a bill was introduced by a private member of parliament on the protection of the rights of Transgenders. Later the government introduced its version of the bill. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 19, 2019, by the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Mr. Thaawarchand Gehlot. The same was assented to and became an Act[6]. This act contains clauses regarding the prohibition against discrimination against transgenders and their recognition in society. It also encourages the government to take steps to ensure the welfare of transgenders, and that they are adequately represented in various social institutions. This act also states for the establishment of the National Council for Transgender Persons which shall advise the central government as well as monitor the impact of policies, legislation, and projects concerning transgender persons. It will also redress the grievances of transgender persons. 

Here are several ways in which laws have contributed to this assimilation:

1.     Anti-discrimination Laws: Laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression in areas such as employment, housing, education, and healthcare help ensure that transgender individuals have equal opportunities and are not unfairly treated.

 

2.     Legal Recognition of Gender Identity: Legal frameworks that allow individuals to change their gender marker on identification documents, such as passports, driver's licenses, and birth certificates, are essential for affirming transgender people's identities and reducing instances of misgendering and discrimination.

 

3.     Hate Crime Legislation: Laws that enhance penalties for crimes motivated by bias or hatred against transgender individuals help deter violence and harassment and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions.

 

4.     Access to Healthcare: Laws that ensure transgender individuals have access to gender-affirming healthcare, including hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgeries, are vital for their physical and mental well-being.

 

5.     Inclusive Policies: Government policies and regulations that promote inclusivity and respect for gender diversity in public spaces, schools, workplaces, and other institutions contribute to creating an environment where transgender people feel accepted and supported.

 

6.     Legal Protections for Transgender Youth: Laws that protect the rights of transgender youth, such as ensuring access to appropriate restroom facilities and allowing participation in school activities consistent with their gender identity, help create a safe and nurturing environment for their development.

 

7.     Marriage Equality: Legal recognition of same-sex marriage ensures that transgender individuals can marry according to their gender identity without facing legal barriers or discrimination.

 

8.     Legal Aid and Advocacy: Laws that fund legal aid services and support advocacy organizations focused on transgender rights help empower individuals to challenge discrimination, navigate legal processes, and access resources and support.

 

Conclusion

Transgender individuals face a range of challenges, including discrimination, stigmatization, and violence. They also experience higher rates of mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, compared to the general population.

It is important to recognize and respect individuals' gender identities and to support their right to self-expression and autonomy. Education, awareness, and advocacy efforts can help to promote greater understanding and acceptance of transgender individuals and to create more inclusive communities.


[1] Kalra, P., Kumbar, L., Bobba, R., & Nagaraj, A. (2022). Demographic data of transgender population from a tertiary care center in South India. Medical Journal of Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, 0(0), 0. https://doi.org/10.4103/mjdrdypu.mjdrdypu_797_21 

[2] Post, G. (2020, August 14). What are the Rights of Transgender in India - iPleaders. iPleaders. https://blog.ipleaders.in/legal-rights-of-transgender-india/

[3] Steen, J. (2021, March 29). Liberation vs. Assimilation: Can the LGBT community achieve both equality and cultural identity? - OUT FRONT. OUT FRONT. https://www.outfrontmagazine.com/liberation-vs-assimilation-can-the-lgbt-community-achieve-both-equality-and-cultural-identity/

[4] 2014 INSC 275

[5] India’s new law on the protection of rights of transgender persons. (n.d.). https://www.ibanet.org/article/0F3AE21B-0170-4BF7-95DD-45B07EF1CAF6

[6] Parliament. (2019). THE TRANSGENDER PERSONS (PROTECTION OF RIGHTS) ACT, 2019. In THE GAZETTE OF INDIA EXTRAORDINARY. https://socialjustice.gov.in/writereaddata/UploadFile/TG%20bill%20gazette.pdf  

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