third gender


In 2014, Supreme Court birthed a legal identity for the kinnar population in our country — third gender. But, who are these ‘other’ people and how are they different from the rest?

Gender theory tells us that gender is a social construct and it is not binary. Gender can be understood as a continuum with ‘man’ and ‘woman’ on its extreme ends, so when the Supreme Court equates transgender people to ‘third gender’, it becomes problematic.

In calling all transgender people ‘third gender’ the Supreme Court has completely forgotten the right to self determination. While the subsequent NALSA judgement 2014 allowed said right but, the upcoming transgender rights bill is taking it away. Transgender people who prescribe to the binary of being either ‘man’ or ‘woman’ fight their entire lives to be seen as one. To place binary trans people as ‘third gender’ is discriminative and builds a wall of otherness, when they are men and women just as much. Defining gender by bodily functions does the exact opposite of looking forward, it entrenches us back into the patriarchy.

Excluding trans people from the binary resonates with exclusion of their problems from the narrative. While the population rejoices in the ‘apparent’ liberal decision of the supreme court, it is far away from it. Having an identity legally is not enough. Several questions remain unanswered. In what washrooms, security frisking points, hostels, and do the third gender people go – male or female? What if a particular place does not have issued guidelines for the ‘other’ gender people? These are just basic technicalities that remain ignored, not to say that the socio-welfare schemes seem to be luxury for transgender people.

What was the purpose of creating a new political identity? Was it fulfilled?
When the Supreme Court decided that “trans rights are human rights”, it was important to figure out what part of the demography was transgender. Moreover, in case the government decides to help the trans population, they must know how to locate them. In any case, subjugating a separate identity for trans people was not fruitful. Since the government doesn’t believe in self-determination, transgender people are issued certificates by psychiatrists that could have been used to count, locate, and target the concerned population. Moreover, ‘transgender’ could have been created as an OBC category. Apart from creating headlines, this political identity is the best (worst) example of patriarchal understanding of transgender people.


Feature Image Credits: The Hindu

Raabiya Tuteja
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