Helping the transgender community during the covid-19 crisis
A citizen-led initiative is helping raise funds for the transgender community, which is staring at one of the most difficult times ahead in the wake of covid-19
It was a week before the nationwide lockdown was announced that Chennai-based Kanaga Varathan was mulling over ways to help the transgender community in the wake of covid-19.
The 30-year-old transwoman, who works as a consultant with an IT firm, formed a WhatsApp group with three other friends to come up with concrete solutions. Putting up a fundraising campaign to help the community with essentials and basic medical supplies was one such idea.
“Covid-19 is terrifying, even for those who have the privilege to work from home and stock food. But right now, there are millions of marginalized Indians existing without this safety net that most of us take for granted. The trans community is one such section of society that is at the front lines of this crisis, and is staring at one of the most difficult times ahead," reads the campaign note on Milaap.
This is not the first time that Varathan has been part of a citizen’s initiative to help the community. A similar effort was undertaken during the Chennai floods as well.
Now with the lockdown in place, the day-to-day livelihood of the trans community is compromised. “Most trans folk work in the unorganised sector. They are either involved in traditional begging and performing or they work as manual labourers and blue collar workers," says Varathan. Their work requires them to frequent crowded places -- railway stations, markets, and more. Without doing this, the community will be unable to earn daily wages and have access to food and essentials.
Another challenge is related to the government welfare schemes and financial aids announced in the time of covid-19. The community tends to miss out on these as some don’t have access to banking or government-issued identity cards.
“Initially we thought of buying rations for the community. However, keeping the social distancing norms in mind, we decided to disburse funds instead. As of now, we have been able to help 122 people. This provides them with the necessary cushion and will prevent them from venturing out," explains Varathan.
Through the campaign, the group is covering trans men and trans women, intersex people, non-binary and other minority identities within the trans umbrella. “There are more vulnerable groups within this umbrella also. For instance, trans men lack the social support that trans women have in the traditional Jamath system. Also, we are keeping some funds aside for differently-abled people within the community," says Varathan. As of now, funds have been disbursed to five differently-abled people, and the team is keeping an eye out for other such requests.
The response to the campaign has been overwhelming, the target of reaching 100 people has already been achieved. “We have raised around ₹8 lakhs and the plan is to reach 300 people -– of these, 50-60% are in Chennai, and the remaining 40% in the towns and villages of Tamil Nadu," says Varathan. The group has tied up with a local NGO, which can reach more people on the ground through its network.