Monday, March 9, 2009

Chennai moving toward "transgender" bathrooms

Indian Express reports:
New Delhi: Besides “ladies” and “gents”, public lavatories in Chennai may soon offer a third option — for transgenders. The Chennai Municipal Corporation has set aside Rs 45 lakh for a pilot project to build three such lavatories for transgenders in the city.

While the construction is expected to begin after the polls, the officials have already identified areas with a considerable transgender population in south and central Chennai. The first will be built in Saidapet, where it will cater to those living in Kothamedu, Theedeer Nagar and Athuma Nagar.

While I greatly appreciate the attention paid to trans issues, I can't help but question the framing. What is with the lens of a "third, transgender bathroom" as opposed to simply a unisex or gender neutral restroom? This measure seems to be othering the trans community, instead of serving as a larger testament to the subjective, silly, and typically draconian gender policing and segregation.

To me, a unisex bathroom sounds convenient, humanist, and resource-efficient. A transgender bathroom sounds like a "colored drinking fountain". Perhaps in practice, the third lavatory will just be like any other place to tinkle, and this will become a non-issue. As it stands, I am concerned.

Included in the article was a comment by Aasha Bharathi, president of the Tamil Nadu Aravanigal Association:
“I don’t agree with this. We want to mingle with the mainstream. We don’t want to be separated like this...using separate toilets will open the way for discrimination. We want to be considered as females. In our hearts, we are women.”

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