Namitha’s personal story and the issues she highlighted bring back in to sharp focus failures in the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act passed in 2019.

Namitha Marimuthu Bigg Boss ContestantInstagram/NamithaMarimuthu
Flix Trans Rights Sunday, October 10, 2021 - 10:40

Viewers may have been disappointed to know last Sunday night that Bigg Boss Tamil contestant Namitha Marimuthu has exited the show due to "unavoidable circumstances". Her powerful testimony in an earlier episode had emphasised how often birth families are abusive, unsafe spaces for trans people, particularly when they’re still minors. In episode 5, Namitha spoke of the domestic violence she faced from the time she came out to her parents. Refusing to accept her identity, she says that she was beaten, shamed and forced into a mental health facility that was run almost like a prison. She was also made to go through a liposuction process against her will as a child. Each time she attempted to run away, her parents would file a missing person complaint at the local police station. In her emotional speech she also recalls how she viewed turning 18 as the only way out of her situation. Reaching an age she would legally be considered an adult meant she could transition, find a safe space for herself. Namitha also said that parents are the primary reason that many people from trans and queer communities are in jobs that violate their dignity and put their lives at risk.

In her testimony, Namitha said, "After I turned 18, I left home. Gave it in writing at the local police station that my home was unbearable and that I was leaving. I lived in several cities, saw the extreme dangers that many young trans women faced such as threats and violence from hired thugs. At one point, I decided to go back to Chennai. This is where I grew up, why should I live somewhere else? They [family] say 'society, society'. I was furiously determined that I should live my life in front of that very society, so I came back. I took a room in a mansion on Triplicane High Road. I had to work, money was scarce. One day a friend who owed me some money asked me to come to his textile shop, saying he'd pay me back. I'd barely entered the shop, when several men surrounded me and forced me into a van. The van drove away, I was beaten badly inside. I managed to escape by jumping out into traffic. I found out later that my family had gone to the same police station, got my complaint copy and told the cops that I was mentally unwell. Even after I got out of the van I was beaten and fainted. When I woke up, I was in a dark locked room." This was the mental health facility she was admitted in without her consent from which too she later escaped.

Her personal story and the issues she highlighted bring back in to sharp focus failures in the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act passed in 2019. Trans activists had highlighted that the then Bill did not take into consideration that birth homes are often abusive for trans children. As anti-caste trans activist Grace Banu told TNM earlier, “The first case of abuse for most transgender people starts at home. Hence birth families in most cases not accepting and safe for transgender people.” Despite widespread criticism citing the issue of exposing trans children to domestic violence, the Act refuses to recognize chosen families — those from the trans community whom trans people choose as family — on par with birth families. As the murder of Dakshayani, a 17-year-old trans girl, by her brother showed, legal frameworks that do not allow minors to decide whom they want to live with take them away from spaces of sanctuary and force them to live in violent homes.

Speaking to TNM, queer-rights activist Sankari says, “More than the well-being or happiness of their children, for parents their gowravam (honour) is more important. As soon as trans or queer children come out to them, many parents do everything they can to suppress them. Cruel ‘conversion therapies’ continue including electrocution. Children are taken to psychiatrics, but few mental health practitioners have any knowledge of LGBTQ+ rights or self-identity. Such parents take away the freedoms of their children and what’s more, they don’t even recognize their individuality. Not only have they finished living their own lives, they are trying to live their children’s lives as well." In such a situation she adds, “the Trans Act gives more power to parents. The parents operate in the assurance that their children will have no choice but to come back to them no matter what they do.”

About Namitha’s speech in Bigg Boss, Sankari says it made her extremely happy. “She very clearly showed people not only what challenges she herself had to face, but what problems impact the trans community at large.”

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