Supreme Court of India recognizes transgenders as 'third gender'
April 15, 2014 3:34 AM   Subscribe

The Supreme Court of India directed the Indian Government to include a new gender category to include people who don't identify as the traditional male or female. My head spins as I write this. A combination of being woken up suddenly from heavy sleep and a sudden jerk of pleasant shock has left my head spinning. I am humming some sweet songs in celebration! Hurray!
Supreme Court ruling grants transgender recognition and OBC status* in India.

* A particularly Indian form of affirmative action providing reserved seats and quotas in jobs and schools among other benefits.

Previously on Metafilter about South Asia's hijras

Note: This ruling does not just apply to the traditional hijra community but also to anyone who chooses their gender.

The court noted that it was the right of every human being to choose their gender while granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

“The spirit of the (Indian) Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender,” the court said in its order.
posted by infini (19 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

Related: two years ago the Indian Election Commission introduced an "other" gender for the electoral registration and some 28,000 people have made use of it, from a total roll of 81.4 crore or 814 million voters.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:16 AM on April 15, 2014

That sounds like a wonderful step forward. That first link is heartbreaking.
posted by xingcat at 5:53 AM on April 15, 2014

Amazing and awesome!

Can the US borrow their Supreme Court for the next 20 years or so?
posted by Foosnark at 6:06 AM on April 15, 2014

It makes so much sense that India would do this, with all the Hinduism. Very cool!
posted by agregoli at 6:44 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can the US borrow their Supreme Court for the next 20 years or so?

posted by Stoatfarm at 7:13 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would like for the rest of the world to start using "crore" more often, because we don't have enough cool number names once you get past "twelve."

So, get on that, people.
posted by Etrigan at 7:25 AM on April 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ugh. Well, nevermind then.
posted by Foosnark at 7:53 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

So, wait. Transwomen can't be identified under the law as women, they instead get tossed in the Weirdos category, just as a reminder that they'll never actually be real women?

And this is being applauded?
posted by kafziel at 9:48 AM on April 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

No. If I understand TFA, people who do not wish to identify as male or female now have that choice. Weirdos still come in all flavors.
posted by three blind mice at 10:09 AM on April 15, 2014

I applaud a step in the right direction, even if it isn't quite where we might hope it would eventually be.

For those who wish the US would recognize a third gender, check out:
posted by HermitDog at 10:10 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

kafziel: The way gender works in places like South Asia doesn't neatly fit Western concepts of gender. Hijra are not just "South Asian versions of trans women"; there is a lot of cultural history behind that gender. A lot of the people advocating for measures like these are from trans* people.
posted by divabat at 10:47 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

What I see in TFA is statements like:

The apex court said that transgenders will be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.

The SC said the states must construct special public toilets and departments to look into their special medical issues.

The SC also added that if a person surgically changes his/her sex, then he or she is entitled to her changed sex and can not be discriminated.

The apex court passed the order on a PIL filed by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) urging the court to give separate identity to transgenders by recognising them as third category of gender.

This does not, to me, suggest that trans* people are being accorded respect. It suggests that they are being set aside in an artificial category, lumped in with everyone else who doesn't neatly fit into the preconceptions of a gender binary. In my experience, transwomen don't want their ID to say T, they want it to say F. And the whole "choosing your gender" thing is a pretty fucking offensive framing of the issue.
posted by kafziel at 10:54 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

kafziel, read what divabat just said and also the link to Previously in the FPP.

This is a big thing for a historically discriminated minority, in the context of their culture, country and heritage.

Read teh first person account.

And try to read it without the western perspective where such a community doesn't exist in the first place.
posted by infini at 10:57 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Castes are an artificial category. We're still dealing with that one first.
posted by infini at 11:00 AM on April 15, 2014

From your own c&p:

The SC also added that if a person surgically changes his/her sex, then he or she is entitled to her changed sex and can not be discriminated.

How is this not a sign of respect?

Some of this is a language barrier issue - there aren't a lot of elegant ways to convey Asian cultural histories of gender into Western words. And again, many of these activists calling for and celebrating this change are the very same communities in South Asia whose words you're attempting to deny and speak over.
posted by divabat at 11:31 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is damn awesome, and I am celebrating about it today.
posted by Ragini at 5:00 PM on April 15, 2014

The Supreme Court has posted the judgment here. It provides a lot more information, including a review of the history of hijras in India (going back to the Ramayana) and a review of case law and legislation relating to trans* people, both in India and worldwide.

Echoing what divabat says, here's an interesting extract from the judgment:

[from para 107] "The grammatical meaning of ‘transgender’, therefore, is across or beyond gender. This has come to be known as umbrella term which includes Gay men, Lesbians, bisexuals, and cross dressers within its scope. However, while dealing with the present issue we are not concerned with this aforesaid wider meaning of the expression transgender."

[from para 108] "It is to be emphasized that Transgender in India have assumed distinct and separate class/category which is not prevalent in other parts of the World except in some neighbouring countries . In this country, TG community comprise of Hijaras, enunch, Kothis, Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shakthis etc."

From my reading of the judgment it looks as though it's focused purely on hijras, who do see themselves as a third gender, whereas a trans woman in the West would see herself as a woman. [This is how it reads to me; I apologise if I've misinterpreted, my knowledge here is 101-level.]
posted by Pink Frost at 5:58 PM on April 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

Transgender candidate in Indian elections

In Kannamma’s home state of Tamil Nadu, where transgender people are known as aravanis, there have been further gains. In 2009, the state government began providing sex-change surgery free of cost. Tamil Nadu also provides special third gender ration cards, passports and reserved seats in colleges. And 2008 saw the launch of Ippudikku Rose, a Tamil talk-show fronted by India’s first transgender TV-host.

As I have written about on other occasions here and here, none of these gains have been bestowed upon the community. They are the result of a long and ongoing struggle by ordinary Indian LGBT people including Bharati Kannamma.

posted by infini at 11:28 AM on April 24, 2014

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