Rainbows of Hope: The Hindu Editorial on Tamil Nadu’s glossary of terms to address the LGBTQIA+ community

There is a glossary, but the LGBTQIA+ community needs more than words to live with dignity

There is a glossary, but the LGBTQIA+ community needs more than words to live with dignity

Struggling with gender identity and fighting against stigma, prejudice and discrimination, the LGBTQIA+ community, at least in Tamil Nadu, will no longer be ridiculed by name calling insults or ridicule. The TN government, by order of the Madras High Court, has produced a glossary of terms to address people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or of any other orientation. The Department of Social Welfare and Empowerment of Women notified the terms: paal pudhumaiyar for queer; maruviya paalinam for a transgender; idaippaal for intersex; paalina adaiyaalangaludan oththupogaathavar for a gender non-conforming person and so on. Not everyone is happy; some groups feel that the word transgender should be used, pull; others hope that the nomenclature does not free those left out of the generalization of benefits. For this diverse community, the path from isolation to belonging has been fraught with prejudice and violence, it was a mistake that Judge N. Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court sought to right in his June 7, 2021 verdict. As he listened, In April, the ordeal of a same-sex couple seeking police protection from combative parents, Judge Venkatesh admitted he had to shake off his own misconceptions before ruling on the case. The High Court issued a series of guidelines for the police and social welfare ministries, both State and Central, to ensure the safety of the community.

In February, the High Court arrested the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for taking time to list the names of NGOs working for the community. In a June 2021 order, the High Court recognized that social sanction is paramount to leading a life of choice. In 2018, a Supreme Court tribunal overturned a 2013 ruling and decriminalized homosexuality. But the historic trial was only a first step. An individual who wants to live with dignity, no matter how they want to be identified, still has many mountains to climb before enjoying the freedom, autonomy and privacy guaranteed by article 21. The state and society often mobilize traditional values to combat all kinds of phobias, and the movement for equal rights in TN must ensure that children are not forced to undergo conversion therapy or kicked out of their homes for being different. Rights activists hope the glossary will be fluid because the conversation about gender and sexuality is evolving. By creating an inclusive language for a marginalized community, the State has worked on the principle of sumariyadhai or self-respect, the cornerstone of the Dravidian movement. Tamil Nadu has shown the way, but there is a long way to go before those forced to remain in the shadows see a rainbow of hope in all spheres of life.

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