A little over three months ago, when the Supreme Court struck down Delhi High Court’s decision to decriminalise gay sex among adults, the country’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community had erupted in protests. On Tuesday, when the apex court decided to accord the status of a third gender to transgenders, there was jubilation — and a little heartburn.
Reason: the SC, in its December judgement against homosexuality, had described the community comprising an estimated 50 million people a “minuscule fraction of the country’s population”. A wedge has now been driven into that community, with many activists and homosexuals admitting they feel “shortchanged”. The transgender population in the country is only a fraction of the total LGBT population.
“We feel shortchanged. First they recriminalised gay sex, which affected so many people. Now, all these rights for transgenders. I am happy for them, but what about us?” said an activist who did not wish to be named, given that they have fought together against Section 377 of the IPC so far.
“I do not understand the logic of the Supreme Court…they are even more minuscule than us. If they get their rights, why not us?” asked another gay rights activist.
Transgenders, meanwhile, celebrated the newfound “liberation”. “I feel proud as an Indian,” said Sitamaiyya, who runs an organisation called Kinnar Bharati.
Mumbai-based activist Ashok Row Kavi said lesbians, gays and bisexuals lost out because they failed to press on after the 2009 Delhi High Court verdict. “When we should have made concerted efforts to get Parliament to repeal or amend Section 377, we started celebrating and getting into complex questions about patriarchy and marriage. By the time we came back to our senses, we had lost the plot,” he said.
Some, however, believe that with one part of the community finally getting its due, others may benefit too. “I am happy these rights have been given to transgenders; it has been a long battle for them. We hope this impacts fate of others in the LGBT community and the court does a rethink on our status as well,” said Anjali Gopalan of Naz Foundation.