“Transgender people come from all walks of life. We are dads and moms, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. We are your coworkers and your neighbors. We are 7-year-old children and 70-year-old grandparents. We are a diverse community, representing all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as faith backgrounds.”
This is how Human Rights Campaign(HRC), the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization in America begins their introduction to understanding transgender people. However, this is not how the world sees them. There are a lot of stereotypes and mainstream media (mis)representations that define transgender people as an average person, especially so in India.
For most of the Indians, chance encounters with “hijras” in typical suburban train compartments are their only interactions or very often introductions to transgender people. Due to this sheer ignorance, the false notion of transgender people as nothing but beggars, sex workers or drug dealers has been passed on like an infectious disease to an extent that people fail to recognize them as fellow humans. Thus, their lives and stories are de-humanized, resulting in various forms of oppression being meted out to them at various walks.
As a result of such systematic oppression, transgender people are marginalized and face many socio-economic, cultural and political challenges. However, the greatest and gravest of all problems as we see is SILENCE: Silence forced on their own narratives, policy issues, lost lives, and social deaths. This silence acts as a fertile breeding ground and hence becomes the root cause for all kinds of societal stigma, making “transgender” a huge social taboo. Thus conversations around “The TRANSGENDER Elefant” become uncomfortable, disgusting or unwanted. That is where “Elefant in the Room” comes in.