A Token Initiative?


After expressing its absolute solidarity to the LGBTQ community in the country through its breakthrough episode on alternate sexualities in its fourth season, “Satyameva Jayate” is back again with another initiative to keep the momentum continued.

This time Satyamev Jayate’s initiative is of engaging with Transgender people under the same title “Accepting alternate sexualities” (could be mistaken between sexuality and gender identity).

Not knowing about the whole process of the program it would be unfair on my part to express all kinds of opinions, hence I would limit with my primary observations I have after reading the content they have published in the link here.

Below, I present excerpts of the descriptive part of the initiative, along with my observations.

“With this thought, we encourage you to invite a hijra / transperson to your home or a place of your choice for a cup of coffee or even a chat – “to a place of your choice or your home”: Why not go to the particular Hijra’s or Transperson’s place? Are transgender/hijra people’s places not so worthy for a cisgender person to get into?”

Should one not go into the transgender person’s space and world to know them and understand them? How superficial can it get, when one belonging to a community which has thrown away transgender people and ostracised them for so long, now wants to engage with them, but still expects them to come to their preferred place and meet. Does this mean a cisgender person’s preference is the superior one, isn’t it?

“Anam Prem’ will get in touch with you to facilitate this and make it a comfortable experience for everyone:” “Comfortable to both of you”- how strategically would the planning be made to make this happen? With so much of strategy and planning would it be a meeting where they freely engage and talk with each other? ‘Comfort’ is such a subjective notion, I don’t understand how it will be dealt with.

A cisgender person who enters into the transgender person’s space (though this doesn’t seem to be the plan), might feel uncomfortable at lot of instances not because he/she hates them, but because of the conditioning they have been through and could be because this is their first such interaction. I believe that it is an important and essential discomfort and one must use this opportunity to outgrow from one’s own inhibitions. Facilitating is all fine but I don’t understand what kind of comfort is being referred to, in this context.

“Break the stigma and take a step towards”: This move seems less of a step towards the transgender people, and more about getting transgender people towards cisgender space, to their comfort, to their world and make them feel philanthropic and charitable towards transgender/hijra people.

With the amount of stigma and taboo that prevails in society about transgender people, the one initial meeting could be an opening door for a cisgender person to engage with their inhibitions, discomfort, and misunderstandings but I am sure that one meeting wouldn’t be enough to help to overcome a conditioning of decades in total.

Saying this, I wish to make it clear how important it would be to make sure having a right plan in place for a constructive change to happen.

Other critical aspects:

Relationship building: It is a slow, gradual, step-by-step process, it cannot be all about knowing Transgender people, and they aren’t subjects to be learned. As much as it is important for a cisgender to overcome his/her inhibitions, it is equally important for a transgender person to be able to trust a person from cisgender community, which has been responsible for culturally, systematically and structurally perpetuating violence on transgender/hijra community. How would this be taken care of?

A cautious and harmless space of engagement: As already said that transgender people are no subjects to be learned about and cisgender people come with inhibitions, how would it be taken care that this particular engagement with a cisgender person wouldn’t end up emotionally hurting the transgender person, intentionally or unintentionally because of the insensitivity or ignorance that the cisgender people can (unconsciously) come up with?

Without having answers for these questions, there is very less clarity of what positive change this program can bring. Having said all this, it is visible that this particular initiative has a terrible patronizing tone of having privileged cisgender people dialoguing with transgender people without any understanding of their own cisgender privilege, which results in the marginalization of transgender community.

I completely understand and appreciate their kind and good-hearted intention. But I really hope and expect them to invest some more thought before they come up with this kind of an initiative and think about the serious adverse implications they can have (irrespective of their intention). Without much more serious thought and answering the above questions, this would remain an initiative of tokenism.