Anubhuti is committed to reach the marginalized within marginalized, to reach the roots of our society as per our vision of justice, equity and democracy. Similarly, when we say that ‘youth’ – our primary participant group – are not only men but also women, we are committed to go further and say that youth are also LGBTIQ*. Last weekend, we spent 2 days with our sathis from the trans* community, who were mobilized by Kinnar Asmita organization in Kalyan. We discussed various aspects of Mental Justice including gender, patriarchy, masculinity, social hierarchies, violence, and disaster situations. In short, as one participant said at the end of the training –
We commonly think of ‘mental health’ as stress, tension and so on.. that is what we too had expected to learn here. But what we actually learnt is where these stress, tension come from. Who and what is responsible. That we are not responsible for the mental distress we feel. This has empowered us too, to work on our mental health issues. For the first time, we feel pride in our trans identity – that we have broken stereotypes in a way that others want to emulate. And our mental distress is connected to our revolutionary stand, because it is so strong that rest of society is not ready yet to accept it.– A trans youth
This training was an experience that will be a big learning milestone for our organization and team too. One of the strongest, most articulate, empathetic, loving, well-informed and expressive groups that we have engaged with – we can safely say that these LGBTIQ members are representatives of the strongest activists against all kinds of patriarchy, violence and hate. They have rejected gender and sexual norms, broken love norms, questioned caste norms, critiqued religious norms in ways that the rest of society will take a long time to reach.
As our trainer Deepa Pawar said,
Why do men and even some women feel threatened by the Kinnar/Hijra community? It is because they have openly and successfully broken and challenged every oppression, indignity and violence that patriarchy uses to subdue people.
Going forward, we have already planned our next collaborations which are around movement-building.
The most important takeaways from this training have been expressed beautifully by the participants:
- “All religions fight against each other, but one thing they all have in common – none accept trans persons.”
- “Child marriage, female foeticide, girls’ education, transgender suppression, oppression of menstruating girls, harassment of single women – are all propagated by religions.”
- “All the opressions forced upon us by family, education system, economy, politics, religion come together, and are reinforced by the Justice system”
- “I can only agree 50% that women are good – because we have met women who like us, are friendly with us, make us feel safe. But I cannot agree entirely because our own mothers have sometimes rejected us.”
- “Women have harassed us or made us feel undignified, but they have also made us feel accepted, beautiful, safe. Men have only made us feel unsafe.”
- “Opposing team had as many as 8 men. We were all trans & women. Yet we won. Not that men are weak or it’s a competition between the genders, but don’t ever say ‘don’t be weak like a Hijra’!”
- “‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh bhai bhai’ is only a saying. The majority truth is we can’t stand customs different from ours. Not even those of food.”
- “Article 15 does not allow any kind of discrimination, but in reality, we practice every kind of untouchability. We are far removed from this ideal of the Indian Constitution.”
- “We will take the first presentation of the group that worked on the concept ‘transgender’. Why should we always start with man, woman and then come to ‘third’ gender”.
- “Those who have more space (can be meant to be resources, land, etc.) have more power”
- “We have seen and attended many trainings till now. This is the first and only training where it was not boring, could be understood by each of our participants – not just those of us who are more experienced. You have managed to make our most silent members speak up.” – Tamanna Kene, leader
- “I have heard about what Gender means so many times before – but we either thought about it as some theory unconnected with us or understood it as something technical. Now I realized that Gender is not just man, woman, trans but has 7 more (politics, religion etc pillars of patriarchy) roots under it.” – Gauri, trans youth
- “I am a counselor for many years and I have only learnt and would approach it as counselling about HIV, or similar specific topic. My entire outlook towards counselling has changed after these two days.” – A counselor
- “I have attended many trainings – local, national, foreign. I have learnt mental health as a technical topic but here is the first time you forced me to look at the history of Mental health. I understood the topic freshly from a completely different perspective – of our experiences, our social surroundings.” – counselor
- “Some help us to fill the hunger of our stomachs, which also Anubhuti has done previously. But I appreciate you most because you helped us fill the hunger of our minds.” – Ramabai, trans youth
- “I have relived my entire life of 21 years in last 2 days. I could connect every example to moments, events in my life. I realized my mental health is influenced by these moments – not just of my life, but of our community’s histories, our pains, our struggles.”