As I hastened to look presentable for a meeting this morning, running up and down from the bathroom to the closet and back, I involuntarily stopped upon noticing one of the front-page headlines of The Times of India lying hitherto unnoticed on the couch. It said – “EC gives transsexuals, eunuchs a distinct ID”. All else forgotten, I sat down and read the whole piece. And found myself face to face with the perennial question that anybody with a history of gender change has to confront, time and again.
So, the Election Commission of India has decided to give transsexuals and eunuchs an option of choosing “Others” as their gender instead of having to fit themselves in the archaic two-gender scenario. A welcome move, says the paper.
My initial reaction, to be frank, was – What the hell! Others? OTHERS?? Men, Women and those OTHERS! It sounded demeaning and exclusive. Through the day, however, I have come to think that it is probably a politically correct term for anybody and everybody who doesn’t identify with the ‘M’ and the ‘F’. Instead of calling it ‘The Third Gender’ or ‘Transsexual’ or ‘Eunuch’, ‘Others’ could be looked at as more of an umbrella term for all these.
My real worry, though, was something else. I wondered whether this new term would also be applied to, or forced upon people who have been through Sex Reassignment to actually fit themselves in the archaic two-gender system; which essentially, on a most personal level, boiled down to – What social identity are they going to give me, or if so be it, thrust upon me? A ‘Female’ or an ‘Other’? Are they going to consider the fact that I was always ‘Gender Dysphoric’, and hence, my mental gender always ‘Female’, not to forget, the present physical gender too? Or are they merely going to look at the technical aspects of my having been born a male child and choosing to forego that gender? Are they going to realize that I have been a woman all my life? Or would they snigger and hand me a piece of paper declaring that I need to go and stand in the ‘other’ queue? Is my gender going to be decided by who I declare myself to be? Or are they going to keep that power in their own hands?
Just to make my stand clear here, I acknowledge and respect an individual’s right to choose to not belong to either of the two mainstream genders, and hence, demand for a legal identity as the third gender. It is only fair that a human being be given the freedom to assert their own identity, and that there be a system to acknowledge that. But going by the same logic, a transsexual person or a eunuch must also be free to choose ‘Female’ or ‘Male’ as their gender if that’s who they are, surgery or no surgery. ‘Others’ should certainly be an option, not a compulsion.
Giving the Indian system its due credit, I have had very little, if any, trouble in getting my official identification documents altered as per my new physical gender. Driving license and Passport are through already, while PAN card is in the process of application. On a personal level, I have never felt a need for activism for any rights, because I haven’t felt that any rights are missing for me. I know of transpeople who are legally married in India, so clearly, marriage rights are not a problem either. All said and done, however taboo a sex change might be for the Indian society, at least the law doesn’t seem to have anything against it.
Which is why the EC move left me numb this morning. It was a feeling of helplessness, given by a fear that my right to choose my identity might be filched away. It is all fine and idealistic to think that whatever they do and say cannot affect my real self, but then, I cannot deny the feeling of unbridled joy when my surgeon gave me a certificate declaring me ‘Female’, nor the ecstasy of looking at my beautiful new Passport next to the old one stamped ‘Void’.
And so, I finished my meetings, rushed home and sat on the internet, looking for more information on the matter. And to my relief, what I gathered from the news stories was that ‘Others’ is a choice available to transpeople and eunuchs if they wish to use it, but ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ are just as much open as choices too! A couple of links:
Yes yes, I agree with you, The Times of India. A welcome move, indeed!