Accepting the third gender
The recent directive by the Reserve Bank of India to all banks to include a separate column ‘third gender’ in all their forms and applications is a step in the right direction, coming as it does in the wake of last year’s April 15 landmark judgement by the Supreme Court which created a separate status for the transgender community. The RBI took notice of the difficulties transgender persons face in opening bank accounts as there is no provision for them in the account opening and other forms. The UGC had also notified transgenders as the third gender in July last year to make them eligible for scholarship schemes and fellowship programmes in higher educatiol institutions. The third gender category has been recognised in certain legal documents in some states, but they still face many hassles when it comes to admission in educatiol institutions or hospitals. Asking the Centre to treat the community as socially and economically backward, the Supreme Court had also asked the states to construct special public toilets and departments to look into special medical issues related to transgenders, but there has been little progress in this direction. Around 41 lakh persons in the country mustered up courage to register themselves as transgenders in the last census, and there is much need for public sensitisation before they can breathe easier in our society. The example of track legend and Montreal Olympics decathlon champion Bruce Jenner has lately been an inspiration to transgenders in India, after the American male icon revealed in a recent TV interview about undergoing a sex change because he felt his brain is ‘more female than male’.