The transgender community is the most widely known gender minority in the subcontinent of India. They are heavily discriminated against and have a difficult time finding jobs because of who they are and how they present themselves. However, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, their condition has taken a turn for the worse. As a 22-year-old transgender woman by the name of Bianca living in a rented one-room accommodation in Manimajra points out, there is no support from anywhere. The trans community is largely disowned by parents who cannot accept their children for who they are, and therefore they do not get any monetary support from their own home. They also do not easily get jobs because of the same reason, which made their financial condition even worse when they were laid off because of the lockdown that was imposed to tackle the pandemic. According to a transgender woman who works as a consultant at the National Institute of Social Defense, transgender people have to balance their life between economic instability and social vulnerability.
One of the most devastating effects among the trans community caused by the pandemic was not the fact that they lost their jobs or the fact that they couldn’t get one. Even though these were serious problems, they do not have something that regular cis-gendered people have: proper family support. A large number of trans people have a lot of expenses related to their medical, emotional and social transition that unfortunately cost a lot of money. So their savings will be quite meagre compared to most people. They cannot reach out to their parents because they either don’t accept their children as being transgender or the parents create an uncomfortable toxic atmosphere for them, which they need to avoid. This, coupled with the fact that most transgender people are employed in the informal sector where they depend on daily wages for survival, makes it much more difficult for them in the time of this awful pandemic.
Gender dysphoria is not something that cis-gendered people understand. The feeling of living in a body that does not match their own mental perception of their gender is traumatizing, dehumanizing and emotionally extremely painful to deal with on its own. However, with the lockdown forcing them into isolation, their mental condition has gotten worse. A lot of transgender people save what they can when they can to fund their gender affirmation surgery. However, due to financial pressures, they have been forced to use these savings to buy basic necessities like food, water and pay their rent. A special helpline number has been set up by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for free psychological counselling of transgender people in response to this issue. According to trans activist and member of the Transgender Welfare Board in Chandigarh Dhananjay Chauhan, the calls they received were harrowing and extremely disturbing. Some were calling daily, some called with help for their financial situation, and some were extremely suicidal. The psychologist leading the Tele counselling programme, Dr Chahat Gandotra, says that the symptoms they presented were extremely alarming, ranging from depression to self-harm to possible suicide attempts. They say they have nowhere to go, no one to turn to for help, no one to share their problems with and have to suffer their trauma alone in isolation.
Credit where credit is due, the government did try to help the transgender community in the possible ways that they could. They passed a law that stated that made it illegal for parents to throw out their kids because they identify as part of the LGBT community. They set up a helpline number dedicated to transgender people as mentioned above to help share their grievances with someone. They even gave 1500 rupees for free to all registered transgender individuals. However, this apparently did not help a lot of trans people because a lot of trans people run away from home at a young age because of the way they are treated at home. So they do not have any kind of identification or documentation; they technically don’t even exist according to the law. So not even this fund reaches them.
Unless and until parents stop being so mind-numbingly ignorant and stupid about their children, swallow their ego and genuinely try to understand their children for who they really are, this condition will persist in the transgender community in the years to come as well.