Covid-19 lockdown is just another continuation of the already brutally normalized homophobic and repressive reality of India’s queer community that has been already facing many existential struggles through massive untouchability, social distancing, and physical and sexual violence.
The Trans Protection Act (December 2019) is a slow genocidal act, enforced by a government assimilated the brahmanical Hindu morality, with no studies on the social environments and lives of a society living outside the heteronormativity, thereby ought to be grievously marginalized and insecure. It is amidst the implementation of this newly imposed repressive act, the community with its majority being abandoned, unemployed and homeless, forced to face a pandemic situation along with their medical crisis.
Being grown in different homophobic circumstances, the majority of the transgenders are forced to quit schooling with mere elementary education, and obliged to choose between sex works or begging.
The Kerala Government that labeled itself to be the first, to sanction the Transgender and Intersex Policy, declared not a single package for the community with a very meek financial stability. The only welfare work conducted in the distribution of food kits by the Department of Social Justice for those with a Trans ID card. The obligation of an ID card in a state with more than 25,000 transgenders and among them a very few provided with the same seems very paradoxical. The government and its policy that acknowledges only transgenders as a gender-sex minority, in fact, blindfold the remaining categories( female-born sexualities, non-binary, asexual, gay, bisexual, gender non conforming, and other identities) and their struggles to remain visible in the mainstream.
Being a community that is both socially and economically marginalized, moreover entailing frequent medical aids and emergencies, the basic need for ‘free health care’ isn’t even recognized by the state’s Trans Policy.
Transgenders facing medical negligence and discrimination from doctors and medical staffs are not an exception in the state. Therefore in the wake of Covid-19 the need to ensure hospitals and medical facilities to be queer-sensitive is a necessity. Not just food and water, but also medicines, hormonal tablets and injections are a basic need for the queer, being a community going through a transitional period. The lockdown has made their availability scarce and the community is going through much physical and mental trauma. The Health Department’s negligence of the basic medical necessities of the community makes it worse.
Only a total of five shelter homes are currently provided for the community which can hold up to a maximum of 100 people, moreover, transgenders holding a trans ID are alone accommodated in these shelters. The sudden lockdown has forced many to return into their own houses, that had once abandoned them, and are currently struggling to survive there.
“Unfortunately, due to the corona lockdown, many are forced to return into their homes. Most of them are facing brutal physical and mental abuse in their own houses, but none of them are ever recognized under ‘domestic violence’ and made any actions. At least now, the government has to consider these too under domestic violence “, says Ahana, a representative of Kerala’s first queer society Sahayathrika.
Outside the community spheres, there exist zero queer sensitive facilities to provide mental health care and support to the people, and most are obliged to depend on the very few facilities that work within the community.
The state, that claims to be forward both in its educational and developmental sectors indeed treats the community much discriminatory. The society’s stigma towards gender-sex minorities is much inhuman and premature, to the extent of labeling them as ‘contagioned’.
“What’s a virus for us…everybody treats us like one”, says Viji Rahman, activist and president of Karma Cultural Society, Malappuram.
For a society in which its stigmas over queer communities are unconsciously entangled within its self, the social media writings ( such as WhatsApp messages, fake news, memes, cartoon) they produce in connection with the virus, naturally come across with queerphobic languages, expressions, and visual cues. Queers are forced to face the reverberations of such obscene and superstitious contents creating within their family spaces alone.
Even when the ruling entities repeatedly declare that coronavirus has no religion and caste, it is the oppressed communities such as the Adivasis, Dalit, Bahujan and other religious minorities of the country, being forced to migrate hundreds of kilometers on-foot and falling dead, poured with pesticides and denied with food, medicine, and shelter. The magnitude of these oppressions only amplifies when they are from the disabled and queer population. The pandemic situation grievously opens up ways for such graded oppressions. The virus the queer community has always faced is the systemic graded oppression; now it has a pandemic phase.
Naseema Nazrin is a queer activist in Kerala