Trolling and body shaming is a daily challenge the nupi maanbis, or transgender, have to face without any respite, with social perverts being the most insistent perpetrators. The cybercrime unit, and in fact any government department including police are not clear what role they have to play when harassment or crimes occur against the transgender with the most common response from the cybercrime unit on the matter of trolling of transgender being that the transgender are not included in the IT Act 2019. Here we have R.K. Lakhi Kant chatting with transgender women Santa Khurai, who is an activist and writer, Bonita Pebam who is also a transgender rights activist, Sanathoi Thangjam who is a beautician, Roro Khumanthem who is a transgender activist, and Dr. Beyonce Laishram of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences who couldn’t be present but sent a note of support.
Santa: Most remarks which are sexist and transphobic come from men. They project the physical anatomy of transgender in a most painful way on the social media. One trans girl reported and went viral on Facebook when she eloped with a man and then the man said he found out that she was a transgender and used the remark ‘unboxing’ for the trans girl to defame her. Why are the transgender bullied because they are inclined towards women, though not in the way of biological attraction. The words on social media are hurtful. And when we went to the cybercrime unit they told us that documentary evidence is required; which when we submitted they took the whole episode lightly. This is the bias we have to face. The response from the police station, cybercrime unit and other state agencies is very limited. If our body is that of biological women then they might listen.
Bonita: They think we are sexually taking advantage of women who we are friends with. They also accuse us of taking money from men who are frequently in touch with the transgender. The wives of some men blame us for taking money from their husbands.
Roro: I got to know a man on Facebook and became friends with him. When his wife found out that the man was emotionally close to me she threatened to put me in jail. Then when she found out that it was the man who was sending the messages to me she apologised. Many men ask if we had ever had sex with a woman and that kind of comment stays with you for the whole day.
Sanathoi: A girl called and blamed me for having a video chat with her father. She harassed me mentally because she believed I was having video sex calls with her father. I can’t even trace where the call came from and don’t know anyone who has the number. These messages come usually on Messenger. Otherwise also when we get a call from any man we are sure it must be for a sex video call and is meant to harass us. We live with our families or with other known people, so it’s very embarrassing for us. Many times they are drunk and sexually explicit.
Bonita: We need to be with our friends and so we need to hang out at some place. They even blame us for pimping through the beauty parlours we run. They are so many people who come to us at the parlour. They may be into prostitution, but why blame us. We do not discriminate between people.
Sanathoi: Many times they come at night and stay in the beauty parlour because they know that the transgender are staying in the beauty parlour. If we refuse to open the door they threaten they will break down the door. They even molest us.
Santa: Then the story doesn’t end there but continues in the morning when they start sending messages on Facebook. Then they blame the transgender for starting the Facebook posts.
Bonita: There should be a complaint mechanism. There is supposed to be a dedicated helpline number for women but there’s nothing for the transgender. Goons harass us at night and this has to be addressed urgently.
Santa: We fail to understand why people are not willing to accept that transgender are harassed. Harassment happens to transgender women also but usually people think only women are harassed. We feel very bad and the transgender due to the harassment think they should get a sex change through surgery.
Roro: Even if we perform a surgery they say they cannot accept us as women. They are trying to classify who is a real woman and who is not.
Santa: We never want to compete with biological women. We are transwomen. Then there are incidents of crime also. During 2017 Yaoshang festival at Bishnupur two trans girls were made to accompany a group of men in their vehicle till Imphal and on the way when a two-wheeler overtook them, the men got down from the vehicle and shot the two-wheeler rider who died. Later the trans girls were blamed for the incident. They question the character of the transgender and say the transgender should be punished. They even tell us to strip. Raba Khangembam, who is a designer, is blamed for making dresses which make the girls and women characterless. But this is just a profession. Usually also, the accounts of transgender are hacked and the hackers post asking men to have video sex calls. They are just trying to create problems for us. It’s not possible to make calls unless the person is known. These people are generally transphobic people.
Dr. Beyonce: Many men in power use fake accounts and reach out to trans asking for sex chat.