(English translation by Velu)
As the rainbow is made of multitudes of color, so is the human sexuality, gender and orientation made of several colors.
Intersexuals are people whose physical features are intermediate or atypical combinations of physical features that usually distinguish female from male. Scientific evidence points to genes/chromosomes that bring in such diverse physical expressions of human gender. Transgender people, on the other hand, are born with a particular genitalia, but when they grow-up their self awareness and identity of their own gender is the opposite to the sex with which they were born. For example many transgender woman are born with male genitalia but internally feel their identity to be of a woman. In the same vein, transgender men are born with female genitalia, but feel their identity to be of a man when they grow up.
As mentioned earlier, human gender identity and expression is so varied and diverse. It is incorrect to assume that we can fit everything in the world into just two labels. We humans are so diverse and so are our identities and expressions of those identities.
It is a common fallacy to assume that just because you dress up your male child in female clothes, that child would eventually become a transgender person. Human sexuality and expression are very complex, and are formed by genetic, hormonal and environment (early development of a fetus in the womb of the mother). Merely dressing a child one way or the other will not alter the gender identity and expression of it when the child grows up.
It is usually difficult and impossible for any person to ascertain any child’s gender identity. The child could even be unaware of its own identity until puberty. When a child born physically male hits puberty, several hormones (especially sexual hormones) start kicking-in. Such a born-as-a-male child also starts getting feminine features in addition to the masculine features. This causes the child to feel confused about its sexual identity. Parents usually can identify children who are in such distress.
Even though parents can be quite understanding and supporting of kids who are in the throes of finding their gender identity, the society at large can be quite ill-equipped to support such children. School experience for such queer children can be quite traumatic with verbal and physical abuse and violence.
In these instances parents should try to secure a safe and healthy environment from bullying for all children, not just queer children. There is acute need for schools and colleges administrative authorities to make sure that their campuses are safe and welcoming of all diverse persons, including transgender and intersexual children.
As any growing teenager would face throbs of love and infatuation so do transgender and intersexual teenagers. It is very important for parents and school/college counselors to help such children who might be need the help to navigate these rocky years. Children who do not receive this acceptance and support eventually end up feeling abandoned by the society, leave their homes with crushed emotions towards big cities such as Mumbai.
These children who are abandoned by their homes find big cities such as Mumbai, accept them for who they are. In these cities they finally find the acceptance to dress and express their gender freely. However these young children are usually taken of advantage financially and sexually abused. To avoid such scenarios its necessary for the parents and the society to support and help their children from feeling abandoned.
When a child does not express a particular gender expression while growing up, it should not be punished nor admonished. Children who are born as male but who during their teens try female clothes and make-up could later identify themselves as transgender. Parents during these teenage years should talk with open hearts with such children and try to understand and support such children. These children who may later identify themselves as transgender, can become successful members of the society if they receive such support.
The status of transgender men (born with female genitalia but later growing up identifying themselves as men) is even more dire and needs active support. Transgender people should never be forced to marry any person against their will as this would result in untold misery and pain for everyone involved.
For any transgender (male or female) person to go through hormonal treatment/surgery (to transform their physical genitalia) have to follow Harry Benjamin Standards of Care that includes:
- Complete physical examination
- Mental health Counselling
- Pre-operative period living in the gender of expression
- Hormonal treatment
The above five are followed in order. During counseling, transgender patients usually get clarity on their identity. During the pre-operative period living, some people find hard to survive in society as the opposite sex and might decide to drop-out. Some end up feeling comfortable in pre-operative state and do not feel the need for the physical surgery to change their genital anatomy. Some however choose to go for hormonal treatment and surgery to complete their gender change. During these stages, the support and acceptance of the family is very crucial for the well being of the transgender person.
In our kind society we are kind to our pet animals, trees and even inanimate objects. However when it comes to transgender children who are born and raised in our families, many are abandoned for no fault of theirs. Even though scientific evidence is piling to show how alternate sexual identities and expressions are part of basic human trait going fundamentally to our genes and chromosomes, our society is lagging behind in accepting these sons and daughters.
“A greatness of a nation is measured by how it treats its weakest members” said the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Ours is the land that welcomes even strangers with kindness and warmth. Such nation of ours should never discriminate against our transgender sons and daughters. Lets take a solemn promise to treat every Indian with dignity, respect and love.
This post is also available in: தமிழ் (Tamil)