Mumbai: Their role in our lives is much more than our role in theirs. They don’t make much song and dance about it, although they have to sing and dance to earn their bread. We are all aware of them, but do not want to know them. The transgender community doesn’t shy away to help people even though the same could not be said otherwise.
The Third Eye Cafe in Vashi, Navi Mumbai, is setting an example for society through its decision to employ people from the transgender community.
“As the name suggests, the restaurant was launched with the intention of providing the third gender an opportunity to lead a more respectable life,” says co-owner and architect Nimesh Shetty, who started the venture with his partners.
Nimesh, 27, conceptualised the cafe almost six years ago while working on an architectural thesis around building a community centre for the transgenders. The cafe currently has six transgender employees, four of whom work as table attendants, one is in the kitchen, while one works as the manager. The restaurant employs around 20 people.
“Why should a transgender ask for something? They have every right which a man or a woman has. It is as simple as that. People are just afraid of change and stepping out of the box. They are happy in their cocooned existence,” adds Harrish Iyer, an LGBTQ rights activist.
According to the 2011 census, India’s total population of transgender is around 4.88 lakh. The census data of transgenders was collected with details related to their employment, literacy and caste. The data has been clubbed inside “Males” in the primary data released by the Census Department. For educational purpose, separate data of transgender has been culled out from that.
When all the doors were closed, going online proved to be the best remedy for the community. A city-based transgender youth Sophie Dawud and her friends have launched a website that caters to the needs of the transgender community.
The country’s first online helpline, transgenderindia.com, offers legal and medical aide to those from the community. The aim of the website is to teach the trans youth and help them.
“The website recommends specialists in case a person is interested in undergoing a sex-change operation. The site also offers guidelines and precautions that one needs to take while changing their gender in the legal documents. People were scared to even talk about us, so we have surfaced online so we can help each other out without seeking help of anyone,” said Dawud, 24.
The website contains archives and anecdotes shared by other transgender persons. It offers guidelines, for instance to any trans woman who may want to change her gender in a legal document. The information is contributed by other transgender youths themselves.
The community has started helping and empowering each other. But some have even gone beyond their own community. Last month, Palghar’s dream of ‘home toilets’ has come true with participation of 22 transgenders from Mumbai.
The transgenders came together to build as many as 7500 toilets in the area. The people from the transgender community educated the villagers about importance of cleanliness. The transgender community has long accepted their fate, but continue their fight for a status as people continue to look at them from a distance.