Atia Sanjida Sushoma:
Bangladesh has recently observed a historical change on 8th March 2021. Boishkahi TV, a private news channel has appointed the first-ever transgender news presenter Tashnuva Anan Shishir on 8th March 2021. Undoubtedly this is a revolutionary and a historical change for Bangladesh. Also, it is an achievement for the transgender community in Bangladesh who are likely to be marginalized and stigmatized in various sectors due to their identity. We hope that this will create new doors and opportunities for the transgender community in Bangladesh. However, we still have a long way to go since the transgender community is still not well accepted by the people in our society.
Bangladesh government has undertaken some appreciative initiatives in the past few years for the transgender community including- providing voting rights, ‘third gender’ status, and so on. Also recently, they got the chance to attain an education in Madrasah. Although changes came in the form of legal recognition, people’s perceptions did not change. It is very necessary to bring change in the perception about the transgender community in our society since without changing people’s mindsets, we will not be able to ensure a safer society for them.
People’s perception is very much important to ensure a safer place for the transgender community. It can be explained by providing the example of Tashnuva Anan. Tashnuva is being praised by various news portals for becoming the first transgender news presenter in Bangladesh. But in several Facebook groups, she is being highly bullied by both men and women and they are seen commenting abusive words about her. So, a change in the mindset of the people is necessary to ensure equal rights for them.
A norm or perception does not get established in a day. By applying an intersectional approach, it becomes visible that several institutions work together for the establishment of a particular perception. Science and other branches of knowledge promote having XX and XY chromosomes as normal and categorize others as abnormal. This establishment of abnormal connotations with the peoples who do not fit into the binary category of men and women promotes the stigmatized perception of the transgender community in our society.
Transgender people are being bullied and assaulted in our society because established knowledge promotes that they are abnormal and should be ignored. All cultures have gendered expectations from males and females. But those who grow up with a gender identity that doesn’t match with the sex they were assigned at birth, are being stigmatized for being different. They face discrimination in society, family, educational schools institutions and also stigmatized by religion. Due to lack of access to education and employment, most of them are forced to engage in sex work and money collecting activities. Their future can be changed by changing our negative attitude towards them.
Most of us in our country do not know how to address and respect a transgender person. In this case, educational institutions can play a vital role. Schools should advocate for acceptance of differences. The curriculum should include positive representations of transgender individuals. Transgender students should be addressed by their preferable names and pronouns. Educational institutions should provide an understanding that gender identity is their true gender identity, whether or not they fit with your gendered expectations.
Moreover, we have to make sure that our policies prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. Our health care system is still not transgender-friendly. There is still no sex reassignment surgery available in Bangladesh. These loopholes should be addressed. Also, employees should be hired in workplaces without regard to their gender identity or gender expression.
In addition to this, the family is the first place where transgender persons receive their first maltreatment. Families should teach their children that they are free to choose their gender identity. Providing a child with the greatest freedom of gender expression, allows the children to gain confidence and develop an authentic sense of gender identity.
By following these steps, we can reduce stigma and promote a positive perception about them and make our society safe and comfortable for people of all gender identities.
About the writer:
The writer is a student at the Department of Women and Gender Studies, University of Dhaka.