Yesterday was an international day, an important one. It was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Not many knew about it. There were no official events or celebrations to observe the day.
The day is to commemorate lives lost to transphobic violence.
Globally, more than 3,000 people have been killed because of anti-transgender related violence since 2008.
And this international day is very relevant to Bhutan. We have no violence or killing of the growing trans community, but it doesn’t mean that all is well. There is a sizable trans community in the country. We assure that there are hundreds others who are hesitant to come out fearing discrimination and getting ostracised.
We are known to be a tolerant society. Therefore, we do not see outright discrimination whether it is sex, gender or race. While the LGBTQ+ community feel that they are fortunate to live in Bhutan, it could be wrong to seek comfort just because we do not experience difficulties on the dimensions that many other people do elsewhere.
It may not be as severe as it is in other countries, but we have our own problems. Transwomen are talking about not getting their daily supply of hormone pills because of the pandemic. For an average person, it may sound unimportant, but it is an important part of their life. In fact, the pills determine who they are.
Is it important to let them have access to the pills, which for them is about identity?
They were not complaining. There was a forum and they raised the issue facing them. The point is if we have recognised the community, we ought to help them. We ensure uninterrupted supply of condoms and contraceptive pills even during a pandemic. Why not help them with the hormone pills?
There is a growing understanding of the community, fortunately. There are groups and organisations that look after their interest or protect their rights and equality. The media write about them and the community members share their stories.
Beyond the hormone pills, what are we doing to take them on board? Only recognising or tolerating will not solve their problem. The LGBT community still continue to face discriminations. A large number of transwoman and gay, it is reported, refuse to seek services provided due to self-stigmatisation and the fear of being treated as outcast.
Worse, they are also a vulnerable group during pandemic times.
It is not only about the hormone pills. Some have lost jobs. Some are sexually exploited. The prevalence of sexually transmitted infections is highest among them, especially amongst gay and bisexual men.
Yesterday, apart from an effort to share a few stories from the transgender community on social media, there was not much attention. It is an important issue, one that we will have to deal with the more in the coming days.