New Delhi - Identities are not isolated and are found in intersections. The transgender population already faces marginalization in society, and people within the Dalit and Adivasi communities who are trans face even more subjugation. During the 1st Day of the Rainbow Literature Festival that took place in Gulmohar Park in New Delhi, many trans rights activists highlighted the importance of intersectional discussions.
Kabir Maan, an educational facilitator who identifies as a Dalit trans man, opened up about his struggle that came with balancing the two identities. They claimed, “If I had not been Dalit, information regarding my queer identity would have reached me earlier. I went to a school where the students were not prioritized, and there was no exposure. I knew from nursery who I was, but even at that young age, I had told myself that it needs to be kept hidden, otherwise, I will get into trouble. I did graduation from open learning, because of which I had very little access to resources and spaces. It was only during that period I realized that a word like ‘transgender’ even existed. My residence is in Old Delhi, an area primarily composed of lower-caste laborers, and they did not understand my identity. Later, I decided to become a journalist thinking that field would not be imposing a binary uniform, and I would be able to move around, taking in experiences. I had no one to look up to or talk to, so I felt people would be able to tell me about myself.”
“But when I opened up about my intersectional identity, whispers and rumours around my character started to spread. I could not take that anymore. That very same year, my father expired. I could not be in my house nor go out, so I dropped out in the final year of my masters. It made me feel education and institutions have failed me again. I then decided to become an educator and not a journalist. Even though I always had short hair and wore ‘men’s clothing,’ during the teachers training, I was made to wear saris and feminine suits. I still remember that period where no one failed but I dropped out for one year. This is because whenever I used to go teach at schools, I had to look ‘feminine,’ putting immense pressure on my psyche. There, my caste talked too as staff and students from upper-caste identities were listened to and I was not.”
Zayan, an educator who identifies as a Dalit trans man, addressed a panel where they spoke about intersectionality. They revealed, “there is a lot of invisibilization that happens within the community too. Like, for example, the newly established National Council for transgenders. There are no transmen, let alone trans people from Dalit, Adivasi identities. For me, it was more difficult to find a trans Dalit role model. Because of that, I used to get to listen to the same group of people in the panels. Even after being a Dalit trans man, I am sitting here talking to you, which partly is because of some privileges I hold - I can speak English, I could study further, I learned performance so that I can get access to networks and spaces. Acknowledging that, I ask everyone to pass the mic on to people who are marginalized within the marginalized communities.”
Grace Banu, a Dalit trans rights activist, in her opinion piece for The Print, further talked about the importance of acknowledging the differences. She wrote, “transgender individuals from the Dalit community, facing the challenges of both their caste and gender identities, often end up being overlooked in history. Our struggles and the development of our communities are frequently sidelined, seen as less important than they really are. It's crucial to focus on these human stories to achieve freedom from both caste discrimination and patriarchal norms.”