Differently right

Avantika Chaturvedi, CNS Correspondent, India 
Photo credit: CNS
 Being different does not mean one is wrong, it simply means one is different from the rest of the crowd. But our society works on the principle of coloring everyone with the same color and dissolving one’s unique identity. The question arises, what if one does not want to do so? Well, then the person is labeled as a social outcast. Men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender populations have been the victims of this ostracization for many years, because our society has failed to accept these differently right people as part of our society. This population has been treated as public outcasts and has become the target of social humiliation, verbal and physical assault, preventing them from accessing basic health services, and leaving them in a state of prostration.

Talking to CNS, Aadil  Rasheed, project manager of Ibteda-e- anees, said that, “Stigma and discrimination directly affect the mental health of the MSM and transgender population because these communities have to face discrimination in their homes as well as work places, which effects their self-esteem. The discrimination starts from the school itself where, from teachers to the students, everyone judges them on the basis of their so-called ‘different’ behavior, often leading to  non completion of their education. Childhood discrimination has a huge negative impact on their personality, due to which they are unable to complete their education and in later life they are subject to sexual exploitation. These harassments and exploitation result in a negative impact on them”.

Speaking about pre conceived societal ideas around gender, he said that, “ Society has defined the role and responsibilities around gender, and if a person is unable to fulfill those roles and responsibilities, the person is not accepted. If the person (like MSM and transgender population) feels that the society is not accepting them they may rebelliously start behaving the way they want to, like wearing the clothes they prefer, and they end up fighting with anybody. It has been seen that when they find that this is their identity, then their behavior turns out to be not social friendly.”

On being asked about the eradication of stigma and discrimination, Aadil said that his observation has shown that generally families do not support people with alternate sexuality. So if a family is sensitized and if they are ready to understand that feminism in a boy is not a bad thing and that feminism is also a type of sexuality and that such people do exist, then it will go a long way in helping everyone. Apart from the family, school authorities, and health care providers, police officers also need a lot of sensitization on this issue, because they are the ones who can help MSMs and transgender populations to mainstream with society. So, it is the responsibility of both, the affected communities as well as mainstream society—the former to behave sensibly in public and the latter to accept MSMs and transgenders as normal human beings.

(name changed), an outreach worker of Bharosa Trust said that discrimination in the family and in society lowers their self-esteem and makes them wonder if their special sexuality (which is not in their hands to control) is robbing them of their right to live. At times discrimination may even lead to suicidal thoughts. Discrimination is prevalent in every field whether it be education, workplace or healthcare services. When people come to know about their identity their behavior changes.

When they go to a healthcare facility for treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) they hear comments like‘tumlogon ko nahi hoga toh kisko hoga, aisa kaam karoge toh hoga’ (if people like you will not get such infections, then who else will? If you indulge in unnatural practices then this is what will happen). Anoop is of the view that eradication of stigma can be done by the government through implementation of education and work policies that are inclusive and friendly. Counselors can play an important role in reducing self-stigma and harming thoughts by proper management and networking with their community members. 

Avantika Chaturvedi, Citizen News Service - CNS
September 11, 2015