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Transgenders say they have been shunned by relief groups

A calamity as large as the Chennai floods can be very harsh on those who are marginalised. An uncertain future awaits a large section of Chennai’s 3,000-odd transgender community hit by the recent floods

Transgenders say they have been shunned by relief groups
Sangeetha and Rajakumari


Rahasiya has been cleaning her house, ever since she returned from a temporary shelter on Tuesday. After a heavy downpour on December 1, her house in Rajaji Nagar, Thiruvottiyur was completely flooded. “I and many others from my area had to be later rescued by boats. We were taken to Sahodaran 2, a branch of the organisation working for homosexual men and transgenders, nearby. I was able to return only a few days ago and have spent the whole day cleaning my house. There is so much yet left to be done,” she says, pointing to a green wall that is darker in some places due to the dampness.

Her neighbour, Rajakumari, says that they had a harrowing experience throughout last week. “All that I had bought after years of hard work was destroyed in one heavy spell of rain,” she says.

No relief in sight

For the 40-odd transgenders living in the area, there hasn’t been much relief in sight. They say that Kargil Nagar, which is close by, has been receiving relief material. “It is a known area and the relief material has been going there without much effort on the part of the people living there. There are just about 10 of us there, they are not having any trouble,” adds Rajakumari.

She adds that though many authorities visited their area, they were still in the dark about their plight. “They came here so many times, but they just inspect the area and leave without a word about any action planned for us,” adds Rajakumari.

The stagnant water in the locality is testimony of their struggle to cope with the floods. Sangeetha, another resident of Rajaji Nagar, adds that they are still trying to assess the loss they have incurred. “I still don’t know the exact details of all that I have lost,” she says.

Sudha, a transgender social worker, says that Thiruvottiyur has been the worst hit among all other areas vis-a-vis the transgender community. “The other areas are Sathyamurthy Nagar and Kargil Nagar, where people have lost almost everything,” she says.

Community support

Apart from their community members, who reside in north Chennai, those living in Saidapet and Choolaimedu have been the most affected by the recent floods. Finding shelter in Sahodaran’s office the community, which is largely involved in prostitution and begging, is still coming to terms with the loss, says Jaya, general manager, Sahodaran.

She adds that the community has largely received help only from other organisations working for the welfare of the community, like Orinam, Snehidhi, Thozhi and Nirangal.

She says, “The ones who were affected in the Nungambakkam area, which is closer to the Cooum, were given immediate shelter at our office nearby. They were in a pathetic state, they have even lost their clothes. For a thirunangai (transgender), that’s the worst that can happen.”

Jaya also says that many people have problems with volunteers specifically helping transgenders. “They ask why they should get special treatment from a volunteer group. And these groups want to meet them individually while giving away relief material. We then decided to help others from our community as and when transgenders receive help from volunteer groups,” she says.

A.J. Hariharan, secretary, India Community Welfare Organisation, says that when volunteers approach him asking for specific groups requiring help, he tells them that transgenders need their support. 

“But then they are very hesitant to interact with them and ask me to suggest some other group. It is not a recent problem, they have always been marginalised,” he adds.

Jeeva, founder member trustee, Transgender Rights Association, says that most of the affected transgenders might have lost their ID cards. “We are yet to ascertain the number, but those whose houses have been flooded have lost this along with their other belongings,” she says.

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