Two recent appointments of transgender women into official positions in church and state in India indicate the growing recognition of their status in Indian society.
On Saturday Anu C became the first transgender employee of the Karnataka High Court. A senior officer of the High Court made this enlightened statement:
‘The Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA), functioning under the High Court, has been involved in various activities to bring transgenders into the mainstream. It became clear during seminars organised by the KSLSA that a majority of them are into beggary or prostitution because they are denied jobs. There is no legal bar in the country to appoint transgenders to government posts and constitutional offices. The KSLSA and the High Court decided to address the issue by taking a first step in this regard under the initiative of the Chief Justice. We have made a small beginning and hope that it will act as a trendsetter for governments, besides motivating transgender.’
Ms. Anu told The Hindu that she was elated to get an opportunity to work in a public office.
Meanwhile, in the city of Chennai India's first transgender pastor preaches at a branch of the Evangelical Church of India. Bharathi, who was raised as a boy, told The Times of India that her childhood was harrowing: ‘I was very feminine and my classmates and neighbours would make fun of me. I became a loner and could not even complete Class 12.’ When she was 10 a sister at the local church took care of Bharathi. ‘I started reading the Bible and praying in church every day. I converted when I was 12 and was baptised a few years later in 2000,’ she said.
Now 25, Bharathi has a degree in theology and has conducted christenings at the church. She now wants to help other transgenders achieve this level of social acceptance. ‘I have formed a team to work with me among transgenders in Chengalpattu [the suburb if Chennai where she works], to bring them into the church and help them stay out of trouble,’ she said.
Transgender women are known as hijras in India and have a long recorded history in the country. Some live in all-hijra spiritual communities led by a guru and perform a role blessing birth ceremonies and weddings. Despite this, most live at the margins of society and with few employment opportunities open to them, many become sex workers or beg on the streets.