The Kerala government in a new order has said that members of the transgender community should not be referred to as the ‘third gender’ or ‘other gender’ in government communication. Instead, the term ‘transgender’ should be used. Previously, the gender preferences provided in government forms and documents included male, female, and other/third gender.
Welcoming the order, Shyama S Prabha, project officer of the state Transgender Cell says, “The issues of transgender persons are always being spoken about on the lines of sex and sexuality. This is difficult for us. We are not people who should be known just for our sex and sexuality. We are human beings and a 2014 Supreme Court judgement has identified transgender as a gender identity.”
Shyama is one of the people who brought the issue to the government’s attention. The Transgender Cell had submitted a detailed report to the Kerala government on the terms that were being used in government communication to refer to transgender persons, along with their connotations.
Prijith PK, founder of Queerythm, a welfare organisation working for the rights of sexual and gender minorities says that it has been a long-standing dream of the members of the transgender community that they be referred as such, because many of the other words that were used to refer to them have been used in a derogatory manner. “It’s a little insulting when people refer to transgender persons as the ‘third gender’ or ‘people with different sexual orientation’ (also called Bhinnalaingikam in Malayalam),” says Prijith.
According to reports, the order of the Kerala government had stated that the word transgender will be used till an equivalent phrase is found. By stating that the word transgender is the appropriate word at the moment to refer to members of the community, Prijith says that this will give transgender persons a sense of acceptance, especially since the order was passed during the pride month. “We see this as a supportive move by the Kerala government,” Prijith says.
Even as the Kerala government is taking steps to use the phrase transgender in government communication, the documents and forms of the Union government still refer to transgender persons as the ‘third gender’ or ‘others’. Prijith says this makes other people think of transgender persons as ‘different’ and not ‘one among them.’
“There is no need to classify gender in numerical order such as one, two or three. All genders should be placed in the same level. Through wrong phrasing, a lot of wrong connotations are made. By referring to us as transgender persons, we can overcome all the wrong connotations,” Prijith tells TNM. He went on to add that when the word transgender starts showing up in government forms and documents, it will start to become normal and it will help in the acceptance of transgender persons in the society.