A global pandemic has proven disastrous in almost every aspect of a common man’s life. This includes the life of transgenders who have been subjected to humiliation since early times and now in the present scenario, the situation has worsened for them. Rightly it is said that when pasts don’t favour you, any addition will only lead to its vulnerability.
Life of 30 years old Sonali was already difficult in a society, where her gender status was stigmatised but now COVID-19 crisis has pushed her into an extremity. Sonali used to earn her living by begging at traffic signals in East Delhi’s Mayur Vihar until lockdown when she was left with no means of livelihood. She barely managed her living under lockdown and was waiting for June 1 for Unlock 1.0 to begin. Unlocking allowed Sonali to get back to the place of her earnings but the challenges she is facing now are loaded with certainties.
The traffic is less than usual which means less earning. Moreover, people do not open the windows to give alms. “No one wanted to give us money. People are not even ready to roll down the windows to hear what we have to say,” she said in an interview with The Times Of India.
Like Sonali many other transgenders are facing the crisis and are losing their jobs, some have lost shelters and some forced to move to their unsupportive families. Since the pandemic has started the situation of transgenders have become twice as miserable as it was before.
“They are facing a lot of psychological issues. Now that they are home-bound 24 hours a day, they are facing harsh comments from family and others in the neighbourhood,” said Arvind Kathuria, Deputy Director, National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.
Being a transgender comes with its own set of challenges, they are made to beg, thrown into sex work but COVID-19 has made it even worse. Many reside in slums, in extremely small places with 10-15 transgenders living together and hence social distancing takes a back seat.
Right now they have very little to survive on. “We are providing dry ration to them but it is not enough. They were given Rs 1,500 by the government in April but for how long will they survive on that,” said Ayesha Behra an Odissa based transgender Woman and Rights activist.
According to the report in The New Indian Express, the transgender community is finding it hard to adjust to the new normal. Ritupari, a 38 years old transgender woman said the new normal “has no place for people like us”. She used to dance at weddings to earn her living which is no more left as a source of earning.
“People are not inviting their close relatives to weddings and other celebrations, so why will they call us. Even if we go somewhere, we are looked down upon and shooed away,” she said. “Most professions we practised have been completely destroyed due to COVID-19,” she added.
They are slipping into depression as the current situation doesn’t seem to get any better. Chandini, a 42-year-old transgender who is an acute diabetes patient slipped into depression as she lost her means of livelihood. She used to beg in trains and cannot earn anything from there now. She is going through a lot of stress and depression which she has never been through even in very hard times of her life. According to her brother, she was a very chirpy and happy person who always looked for positivity in everything.
“She has seen a lot in her life but the past few months have dealt a serious blow to her. She used to be so talkative and jolly. The entire house would light up when she would return home. Now she just keeps looking out a window,” her brother said.
Most of the transgenders are the only working members of their families, so now when they are unable to earn, they are subjected to domestic violence and homicide. These situations are not only a crisis in India but across the world.
In a report of The Washington Post, the transgender community have no jobs, no medical assurance and along with that, they have to deal with the psychological pressure of having a body that doesn’t match their gender identity.
Elena Rose Vera, executive director of Trans Lifeline said “We’re survivors as a community,”
“But all these problems reinforce each other and exacerbate everything we’re already facing. … It’s like the volume has been turned up on everything.” she added.
Some Transgenders are left with incomplete hormonal therapies during this period. Many of them were taking medications for transformation in their bodies but due to the pandemic, they had to discontinue them because of lack of supply and are now fearful of unusual changes in their body because of incomplete therapies and medications.
“If I don’t take it, I will have intense dysphoria, sadness and anger,” said Sasha, who is worried about her medication. She has a history of depression and anxiety and is afraid of getting trapped again in them.
The whole community is going through a lot as some of them are forced to live with their unsupportive families or abusive partners. They are facing delay in surgeries, unemployment, struggling to maintain hormone therapy and the discrimination they face because of their gender increases their misery even more.
The number of suicides, domestic abuse and depression cases have increased in this period of time. They are not treated right, most of the time even the healthcare system is not proper for them.
“Healthcare practitioners don’t know how to deal with trans people outside of surgery. There are questions like, will you put a transwoman in a male ward in quarantine and would you have a female assistant to take care of them?” said Shah a transgender as per the reports of The Hindu.
Somewhere down the line, we can see that the transgender community is still struggling to find their place. The struggles they face are very real and painful. Till now no major help has been provided to this community whose situation is getting vulnerable day by day.
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