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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Braving stigma, hesitancy, around 300 transgenders get vaccinated at special drive

Several transgenders said they had not been vaccinated previously because of the discrimination they face in public spaces.

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
June 26, 2021 10:42:12 am
Around 300 members from the transgender community were vaccinated against Covid-19 over this week. (Twitter/@DM_NorthWest)

A special drive to vaccinate transgender persons at northwest Delhi’s Sultanpuri saw around 300 members from the community get inoculated over the week.

A part of the DUSIB flats near Sultanpuri bus stand was converted into a safe space where transgenders felt welcome. Several of them said they had not been vaccinated previously because of the discrimination they face in public spaces.

Delisha, 22, was among those who waited in line to get vaccinated on Friday. A make-up artist from Prem Nagar, Delisha said, “At other centres, people make discriminatory remarks and we do not always feel welcome. We are glad this camp was organised.” She did not know of any other special vaccination camp closer to her house and so she came on her scooter along with a family member, who got vaccinated too.

Awareness about the special camp spread through word of mouth and WhatsApp messages. Delisha said a few of her friends got the vaccine on the first day and then told her about it. She added, “A few others in the community are hesitant because they have heard rumours that vaccines might have adverse effects on transgenders.”

Awareness about the special camp spread through word of mouth and WhatsApp messages. (Twitter/@DM_NorthWest)

Those who helped organise the drive were tasked with spreading the word among the community, and tackling misinformation. Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) and NGO Aarohan helped district authorities with organisation and implementation. They had earlier reached out to the government.

Prince, a transgender who works with Aarohan, said, “It was easier to convince those who are well educated. However, many transgenders who do not have a formal education were hesitant because of rumours such as the one about ‘vaccines killing people’.” Prince added that many transgenders face issues with documentation if they have changed their gender or if they do not identify as the gender assigned to them at birth.

Tanvi Arora, 30, got vaccinated on the first day and had mild side effects. Prince and Tanvi were given the responsibility of spreading the word among their communities and convincing others to get vaccinated. Tanvi said, “Convincing people is a task, especially with those who live in networks with a guardian. If the head of the family is not convinced, then others will not come out to get vaccinated.”

Besides hesitancy, the community has been falling out of the vaccination net for numerous other reasons. Deepak Sharma, from CFAR, said that firstly, transgenders feel ostracised in public spaces. Secondly, he said a few do not have Aadhaar cards. He said the CoWin app, too, does not have a third gender column so most transgenders are confused about how to go about it.

The organisers added that families of transgenders are being vaccinated as well because they will only be safe as long as those around them are inoculated.

On the first day, around 50 people turned up. It was on the second day that the drive picked up pace. By the third day, many had already got vaccinated and brought their family members along.

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