Thursday December 14, 2017
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A person can choose his gender now: heights of quirkiness?

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By Nury Vittachi

New Delhi: Never has it ever been like this, but it’s true when one says to be prepared for any advancement- a person can choose his/her own gender now.

This columnist has a deeply personal announcement to make. After much consideration, I have decided to remain as a male.

I know modern society pressures us to declare ourselves transgender, transitioning, transsexual, trans-curious, trans-fat and the like, but I have decided to forgo all that trendy stuff and I hope you will support my decision, as my family comes to terms with the hard truth that dad is a man trapped in a man’s body.

Have you read the news lately?

A father just gave birth to a baby. This was after a man born a woman married a woman born a man. In each case, they changed sex but kept a selection of their original parts. You can do this now: doctors have a menu. “I’ll take two of those and one of those.”

This switch-over couple’s offspring is going to have a tough time explaining this, said reader Aalia Shan, who sent me an AP report about a mixed-up family in Ecuador. “That’s my Dad. He’s my Mom. This is my Mom. She’s my Dad.”

“Who wears the trousers in that family,” I asked. “This is 2016,” Aalia replied. “Everyone wears trousers except the Pope.”

I threw this odd-but-true news report into the lunch discussion at the local noodle shop. An unmarried young man was intrigued by the concept of partial sex changes. “I have a very strong aesthetic appreciation of the female bust but have no access to such. Should I get my own?” The general consensus was that he should consider doing so for experimentation’s sake but should be prepared to get no work done for weeks afterward.

A colleague said there was a recent case in the US of a woman who gave birth to her own grandchild with help from a doctor. Again the child ends up with the tough job of explaining it: “This is Grandma, she’s my Mom. And this is Mommy, she’s my sister.”

A UK reporter said that there had been a huge controversy in his country recently when a woman/man was crowned Miss Transgender UK but was then disqualified because organizers said he/she was “not transgender enough”. Reporters were left with a massive pronoun problem. “If we referred to him/her as either him or her we would be making a judgment, so had to call him/her him/her the whole time,” the journalist said. “On the plus side, I get paid by the word.”

It reminded me of author Sarah Caudwell’s books featuring a unisex main character called Hilary.

WARNING: If you are on the Internet and want to flirt with a Westerner named Kelly or Ashley or Meredith or Shirley or Vivian or Lynn or Kim or Jocelyn, proceed VERY CAREFULLY until you find out where they are from. “In the US, these names signify young women – in the UK, they signify ancient men,” he said.

Asia can be tricky too. I know a Sri Lankan man named Sally, a Bangladeshi man named Joy and a Hong Kong girl with possibly the most masculine-sounding name possible in English: He-man.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go set up a support group for people who are only one gender. Slogan: “Are you male or female? You are not alone.” ( IANS)

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A Tale of Resilience and Courage : India’s First Transgender Judge Joyita Mondal

If we tell you about this Lok Adalat judge and her journey- tales of her struggle and battles against her family and the society at large, you would have nothing short of immense respect for her.

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Joyita Mondal
Joyita Mondal is the first transsgender judge in India. Facebook

West Bengal, October 18, 2017: “People almost treated me as an untouchable, and even passed abusive comments. But now people even come to me often requesting me to mediate in family disputes,” said an evidently ecstatic Joyita Mondal Mahi.

If we tell you about this Lok Adalat judge and her journey- tales of her struggle and battles against her family and the society at large, you would have nothing short of immense respect for her.

If we told you about her sexuality next, it may elevate your curiosity a little.

But what if we told you Joyita Mahi Mandal is India’s first transgender judge? Would it make a difference?

Should it make a difference?

From Joyonto to Joyita – Early Life

Joyita, who was born male and given the name Joyonto by her middle-class family, used to play games usually played by girls at the age of 3. Assuming that these interests would soon take the ‘regular route’ towards more boys-oriented activities, family members and parents ignored a young Joyonto’s behavior. However, the change never happened.

According to reports, Joyonto was once scolded for wearing make-up, a behavior unusual for boys to partake; subjected to bullying from classmates for feminine gesticulation, Joyonto was forced to leave school.

Lack of support from the family and school-mates alike forced Joyonto to escape from home in 2009, after which days turned to months, and then years, begging for a livelihood and sleeping on the roads.

As a transgender forced to beg on the streets to a social worker and finally assuming the chair as India’s first transgender judge at the Lok Adalat in Islampur in the North Dinajpur district of Bengal, Joyita’s journey has been extraordinary!

India’s first transgender judge
Joyita Mondal Mahi. Facebook

Challenging the Society

“Transgender” is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of identities, one of them identified as ‘hijras’ – people whose gender identities do not match with their biological sex.

Hijras, a term commonly implied for the transgender community in India, are often looked down upon by the Indian society. They are mocked for their mannerisms, are often made to feel ‘different’, and labeled as suitable only for begging or unskilled work.

Life was no different for Joyonto on the streets.

Now transitioned into Joyita, she demanded nothing less than what she deserved – respect and dignity that every human being deserves, despite their sexual orientation. A struggle that was not easy, her efforts eventually paid off and she crossed several milestones.

Joyita’s Efforts For A Larger Good

According to a report, Joyita established an NGO by the name of ‘Dinajpur Notun Alo Society’ to cater to the transgender community in North Dinajpur district. She had been working on a range of issues related to the transgender community since 2011

It was there that she got in touch with her ‘godfather’ Thanduk Sherpa, Islampur’s Deputy Collector and Magistrate.

Her godfather introduced Joyita to a former additional district judge Subrata Poley, who, impressed by her zeal and enthusiasm to fight against gender bias, recommended Joyita’s name for a judge in the Lok Adalat (civil court).

Finally, Joyita Mahi Mondal was appointed as India’s first transgender judge in Islampur Lok Adalat on July 8 this year

A Lok Adalat comprises of a senior judge, an advocate, and a social worker. Joyita, as a social worker, has assumed the position of a judge. And now enters the premises in a white ambassador- a vehicle categorized for government officials.

Has Joyita Been Subjected To Discrimination At The Adalat?

Joyita’s appointment as India’s first transgender judge was welcomed by friends and supporters from the transgender community who had flooded her Facebook account with congratulatory messages.

Sometimes I can feel negative vibes from those whose cases I adjudicate — strange gaze, or body language. However, I must add that none of them has insulted me. At times, a few are just surprised to see a transgender on the chair of judge.”
– Joyita Mondal, as told to Hindustan Times

However, according to her, the environment in the Adalat is very professional and she has never faced any discrimination. She also added that the fellow judges in the court have also been extremely cooperative and treat her with dignity.

However, India’s first transgender judge is yet to gain acceptance from her family and parents.

The Long Battle Ahead

After the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in 2014 recognizing the third gender under the law that is neither male nor female, attention was brought where it was due – on one of India’s most marginalized groups, transgenders. The ruling redefined their rights and the state’s responsibility to ensure their development and growth.

Things have certainly looked up thereafter for members of the Indian transgender community- whether it was about finding employment in public offices or seeking admissions in National Universities.

However, the battle has not been won completely.

There is limited data on the total estimated population of the transgender community in India, but anecdotal evidence amounts it between a half a million to two million people.

While members of the transgender community have legally gained recognition, the decision is yet to seep down to the root level as they continue to face criticism and alienation from the larger society.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 aims to ensure greater involvement of the trans people in the medical sector and welfare schemes and programmes, thus allowing for a more inclusive society. The Bill is currently pending approval.

In the words of India’s first transgender judge, ““More time is required for the society to change and we have to give it time.”

 

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California Becomes the first US State to allow Gender-neutral Birth Certificates

The so-called "nonbinary" gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more "genders."

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gender-neutral
The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents. Pixabay

California, October 17, 2017 : California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a state senate bill, allowing a gender-neutral marker on birth certificates and driver’s licenses starting from 2019.

California thus became the first state in the US to allow a “nonbinary” gender to be marked on birth certificates, Xinhua news agency reported.

The so-called “nonbinary” gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more “genders.”

According to the Gender Recognition Act approved on Sunday, California will offer a gender-neutral option on state documents for those who are transgender, intersex and others who are not identified as male or female.

ALSO READ Finding their place in the world; Oxford Dictionary to include honorific Mx for transgenders

The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents.

“Existing law authorises a person who was born in this state and who has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition to obtain a new birth certificate from the State Registrar,” the bill read.

The Golden State is now also the second state in the US to allow residents to be identified by a gender marker other than “F” or “M” on their driver’s license.

Oregon and the District of Columbia had earlier issued the gender-neutral option on their driver’s licenses.

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Women-Only Murray Edwards College of Cambridge University to Accept Transgender Students

Formerly known as New Hall, Murray Edwards has, up till now, been a women-only Cambridge college

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Murray Edwards
The college wishes to support students who do not wish to define themselves as either male or female. PIxabay

Cambridge, October 5, 2017 : Murray Edwards College at the Cambridge University, in a first of its kind step, has announced to consider applications from all students who ‘identify’ as female. The college wishes to support students who do not wish to define themselves as either male or female.

According to the official statement released by the college, the move comes from an understanding that asserts that gender is not binary. “Many of us within the college…have concerns that narrow gender identities and the expectations associated with them are damaging both to individuals and to wider society,” it said.

Formerly known as New Hall, Murray Edwards has, up till now, been a women-only Cambridge college.

Transgender students applications are now being taken into account for the 2018 intake. Alternatively, the criteria would also apply to those who wish to transfer to the college during their degree.

Gender issues have been at the centre of popular debates in the recent past. Due to increased attention and awareness, these exists a greater understanding of the complexities of gender in the present societies. The move by the council of Murray Edwards comes as an attempt to open their doors to ‘all exceptional women’.

Dame Barbara Stocking, the president of the Murray Edwards College was quoted by The Guardian as saying, “In order that we remain true to our mission of being open to all exceptional young women we recognize that it is right for anyone who identifies as female, regardless of their born gender, to be able to apply to study with us.”

Admissions Policy

The institute previously followed the admissions policy applicable to Cambridge University’s two other women-only colleges- Newnham and Lucy Cavendish. According to prevailing policies, these institutes accept applicants who are legally recognized as women.

However, Murray Edwards will now be opening its doors to students who ‘identify’ as a woman at the time of applications and to those applicants who had been identified as male at birth but have ‘taken steps to live in the female gender’.

According to reports, Lucy Cavendish is also expected to espouse a similar change after a council meeting.

The move has garnered mixed responses from the larger community.

On one side, supporters of gender diversity and the transgender community have appreciated the college for their decision. A charity organization, Mermaids took to Twitter to thank the college authorities for “embracing all young women.”

However, like every coin has two sides, the college authorities have also received significant backlash ever since the formal announcement was made.

The decision has been termed ‘ridiculous’ and ‘illogical’ by several feminists. A former lecturer at Newnham told The Telegraph, “If Murray Edwards really don’t believe that gender is binary, then they really shouldn’t be a single sex college.”

Top 5 LGBTQ Friendly Colleges and Universities

  1. Princeton University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
  4. University of Pennsylvania
  5. University of California Los Angeles