1. The government of India has already pushed and continues to push the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and Rules, 2020 as an extraordinarily progressive thing. However, that’s not true.
2. The Rules describing how the Act would be implemented were rolled out for consultation in the middle of a nationwide lockdown, when the trans community was extraordinarily vulnerable and continues to be. Draft Rules were published thrice, the third time being on 25th September, 2020.
3. The community has protested the Act ever since it was a Bill in 2016 for several reasons – poor definition of trans people, reduced sentencing for our rape, no horizontal reservation, criminalizing begging (major income source) and most starkly, the complete absence of the right to self determine your own gender as guaranteed by NALSA vs UoI, a Supreme Court Judgement.
4. The 2016 Bill proposed a District Screening Committee that would screen trans bodies (degree of invasiveness not specified) before allowing them to self identify. This committee was done away with in later versions of the Bill, but the spirit of screening via District Magistrate remains even today, just less invasively. ONLY AFTER sex reassignment surgery, regardless, would you be entitled to the markers ‘male’ or ‘female’, completely disregarding that surgery is expensive and inaccessible to most of the community. Further, surgery doesn’t determine gender. Surgery is a personal choice.
5. Over the years, the community protested vehemently against all of the above. No one gets to denude and degrade us to “check” or “screen” our genders for us. Gender identity can be determined by no one but yourself.
6. Extensive, tireless feedback from the community has FINALLY been taken seriously to undo a lot of the damage the Act and Rules could have done. You’ll no longer need surgery before being entitled to binary markers, but you’ll have to provide some proof of medical intervention (includes anything from counselling to surgery). Better than before, but still, nothing to celebrate.