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The latest Indian census indicates a 490,000+ community of transgender people in India. They are recognized legally as the “Other”, and treated exactly like their legal namesake – the transgender, Hijra community of India is till date sidelined, stereotyped and stigmatized. They seem to every “normal” person as someone who is different and unnatural. It is this lack of acceptance and discrimination that is the primary cause of their terrible conditions of lifestyle and why there seems to be no escaping this plight.

We talk about how certain rights are basic and fundamental to our being, yet we stick to judgment-clad, stringent ideals whenever the rights of the transgender people come to question.  A lack of acceptance and awareness about this community is what causes them to be constantly marginalized and made vulnerable because of which they feel the need to hide themselves from society – dropping out of schools, not getting jobs, not going to social gatherings and not even going to the doctor. Illiteracy and poverty is extensively prevalent within these people. Where this vulnerability in schools, workplaces and social gatherings can be tagged to bullying and ridicule, the explanation to why a transgender patient is wary of approaching well-read, trained professional like a doctor seems simply unfair. However, this unfairness is something that remains especially true in the Indian context, bringing concrete disparity and barriers to quality healthcare for the transgender population.

By virtue of their biological difference, the transgender people require an equal amount, if not more, medical attention. The prevalence of diseases like HIV in transgender people is greater; they may require intervention through hormones and surgery; the likelihood of them suffering from depression and anxiety is also immense due to the social backlash they face.  Despite the massive need for quality healthcare, these people don’t even have access to basic health amenities. This inaccessibility is again due to many social factors.

Some doctors remain uncomfortable in treating transgender patients so the outlets of medical treatment are very low for them to access. Even if doctors are willing to treat these patients, there exists a huge gap in the amount of information and understanding of how specifically to treat these patients, given that their biology is a lot more complex. Thus, there exists a lack of competency in the medical treatments available. Even recording their medical details remains inadequate because the forms cater to the male and female gender and aren’t molded according to the transgender population properly. Even if they find a doctor that could treat them and not make them feel unwelcome, they don’t have the financial means to afford treatment and this further degrades their lifestyle.

To tackle all these barriers requires a social change – a change in mindset and a removal of the misconceptions about the transgender people. It is only widespread sensitization and awareness of the issues they face and fostering a sense of understanding for them is the way to bring about this acceptance and understanding, so that they themselves can feel secure within the society and realize that these fundamental rights like health are something that they deserve and must have.

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