The 'others': 17 from city get right to vote as transgenders

D Panna Gabrel (extreme right), the founder of Ashirvad Sanstha, has inspired its members to register as voters with their real identity

During the month-long voter registration drive that concluded on October 27, 17 transgenders belonging to Ashirvad Sanstha, an organisation founded and run for and by the transgender community in Budhwar Peth, registered their names as voters, officially choosing 'other' in the gender column of the registration form. This is the first time that individuals from transgender community in the city have enrolled as 'other' gender and not as 'male' or `female', as the community has been compelled to do till now.

But the real excitement in the community is not as much about "being able to exercise the democratic right of voting" as it is for the fact that the voter ID will pave way for other documents, more importantly passport, which may enable the members to go to America, just like D Panna Gabrel, the founder of Ashirwad Sanstha. Gabrel is just back from a visit to the US where she addressed a forum on the issues the transgender community faces in India.

"I returned from America two months ago after addressing a gathering on the subject — transgender community in India. I narrated (to the Sanstha members) the stories of the 'freedom' the transgenders enjoy in the US and how they are treated on par with the other two genders. Today, our members here feel that if Panna can do it, so can they. They look at voter ID as the first document of their identity," said Gabrel, 40.

While the Supreme Court order followed by the Election Commission's initiative in 2011-12 to introduce 'other' as an option in the gender column of the voter registration form has given the community the confidence to assert its true identity, the members' struggle has been to fight the rejection by the world's largest democracy.

For, when they went to register as voters, they could not furnish most of the details sought in the form, other than the gender.

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