Blue for Boys, Pink for Girls. Little boy, a car; a gun: “Vroom Vroom! Bang Bang!” Little girl, the pots and plates, cutlery, Barbie dressing-up… A retrospective in our lives, as a boy, did you play ‘girl-games’ or were you ‘shy’ we could hear the words: “Arret fer to fifi” and if it applied conversely to a girl: “ene ti tom-boy”.
A mismatch, between the physical and psychological identities; that is, a boy feeling like a girl or a girl feeling like a boy; thus, transgenderism or simply put forward: the person is transgender. On the other hand, where the physical and mental identities of the person match, the person is cisgender which is the majority of people. Other terms of varying identities and sexualities under the transgender are: gender queer, gender fluid, gender binary, transvestite, transsexuals, androgynous, bigender, drags, and the likes; the most common being transsexuals, transgender and transvestites.
In memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998, Gwendolyn Ann Smith started the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), that today, it became and international day, observed in over 185 cities in over 20 countries around the world. The day emphasises on the anti-transgender bullying, harassment, discrimination, violence towards transgender people. It is a living fact that most transgender people are considered as urchins of society, travesties to norms, shunned by their ilk and families, discriminated to obtain work, have non-caring health systems, and they are not easily included in spheres of society.
Kelly de Vries in 1996 in the book ‘Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc/A Woman As a leader of men’ stated: “No person of the Middle Ages, male or female, has been the subject of more study than Joan of Arc. She has been portrayed as saint, heretic, religious zealot, seer, demented teenager, proto-feminist, aristocratic wanna-be, savior of France, person who turned the tide of the Hundred Years War and even Marxist liberator.” Literature also portray Joan of Arc as a Transvestite for wearing male attire as a general of an army. Ill-fated, Joan of Arc was tried for heresy by an English court and was burned as a heretic.
Other cultural and religious aspects of Transgenderism, easily found in Hindu cultures and India, are Hijras, appearing at marriages and births, saying to bring forth great blessings on couples and children.
The Ardhanari in Hindu culture and religion
Especially much anchored in Hindu culture and religion; Hijras are related to Bahuchara Mata, Ardhanari, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata among others. Looking up towards Asia, from where roughly 65% of our ancestors originate, Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have all legally recognized the existence of a third gender, including on passports and other official documents.
In Mauritius, Transgender people are still stigmatised and ostracised, subject to inhuman treatment, and no laws to protect and empower them. A small example, during Rainbow Parades, Transgender people are on the front lines, exuberant, lively, yet, they are the first to be mocked at and made ridiculed of by many. Rejection and discrimination, thus, for their survival, like in many other societies, Transgender people form groups of self-help and support.
Nonetheless, they are also forcedly driven into prostitution for survival, and the anxiety and depression leading to drug use and substance abuse. All these altogether lead to higher risks of HIV/AIDS and other health issues. Yet, as difficult as the lives of most may be, there are also Transgender people who are successful in their works, usually artisanal and creative – hairdresser, artists, tailors, models and pageants amongst others.
For the TDoR, we commemorate those wonderful people who passed away as well as celebrating those who are breathing because of their differences; because our actions today will result in recognition, protection and support of Transgender people tomorrow.