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THIRD THINKING

Following the Supreme Courtís recognition, earlier this year, of an independent identity for transgendered people, the University Grants Commission has now decided to include trans people as a separate category for its various scholarship and fellowship schemes. Similarly, admission forms in more and more universities and colleges are mentioning the third gender as a category, which applicants might tick according to their sense of their own identity. The empowerment that comes from an official move to end discrimination is an essential legal and political victory for sexual minorities. The UGCís move is, therefore, to be lauded by anybody committed to democratic freedom and equality, as an important implementation of the apex courtís recognition. But, the creation of a separate category endorses the reservationist thinking that is also an element in the form given to this recognition. The creation of a separate category is also a form of discrimination, however necessary and positive it may appear to be at this stage, and it is hoped that trans people will be treated on a par with all other applicants, irrespective of sex or gender. That should be the proper goal of all genuine moves towards equality, rather than seeking empowerment through an indirect endorsement of victimhood.

Another essential aspect of the realization of the Supreme Courtís affirmation of the identities of trans people would be to give them the feeling of equality, dignity and security not only in their public or professional lives, but also in their private lives. There is little point in respecting an identity while denying the full realization of it in every aspect of life. India continues to criminalize sodomy, which is extended to include all forms of non-reproductive sex ďagainst the order of natureĒ. This criminalizes, constrains, endangers and desexualizes the lives and beings not only of trans people, but also of a whole range of males and females whose gender and sexual choices ó and one can question the use of Ďchoicesí in this contexts ó do not fit what the Indian legal system continues to call, absurdly and unjustly, ďthe order of natureĒ. The system has to think through this issue to its rational and humane end.