09 March 2011

Pondy transgender first to get unique identity

PUDUCHERRY: K Sheethal, the transgender from Puducherry who became the first person to be enrolled as a member of the third gender under the Unique Identification Number project, is elated that a government agency has finally recognised the community's gender status.

"The inclusion of third gender in census enumeration is the result of an untiring struggle. The members of the transgender community are not considered for any of the official documents like voters' identity cards and ration cards. We have been discriminated against by others. We had lost our identity and had no place to stay," 33-year-old Sheethal told TOI.

So far, members of the marginalized transgender community were being categorized as either male or female for administrative convenience' by all government agencies. Sheethal became the first transgender in the country to be enrolled as a member of the third gender when the Unique Identification Number project was launched in the Union territory on January 24 this year. Sheethal, formerly known as K Ganesh alias Rajesh, is also the president of Sahodaran', a community-based organization which has launched a male sexual health project in Puducherry. K Dharshini (26), another member of the organization, was enrolled next.

Sheethal, who established Sahodaran in 2003, has been working on creating awareness among transsexuals on AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, safe sex and safe blood transfusion procedures besides fighting for their rights.

Sahodaran was one of first organizations to form a self-help group comprising transsexuals. The SHG, which also formed a music troupe, has been hosting cultural programmes and presenting traditional folk art performances to spread the message on AIDS and safe sex.

"There are different views on alternate sexuality and transgender community. Many view them as abnormal. Transsexuals are shunned and looked down upon. Can a human being be forced to be obedient to the predominant model and abandon his free will?" Sheethal asked.

District collector G Ragesh Chandra told TOI that census enumeration was going on in full swing in 25 centres in the Union territory and revealed that Puducherry is the first territory in the country to recognize the transgender community and categorize them as members of third gender without classifying them as male or female.

"We propose to cover all transgenders under the project in the next six months. There are roughly about 2,300 transgenders in the Union territory," Chandra said.

appeared in the Times of India by Bosco Dominique, TNN | Mar 7, 2011, 04.34am IST