For the first time in history, India included its recently official “third gender” in a census count, and discovered that nearly 500 thousand transgender people are living in the country.
Activists estimate that the actual number could be six to seven times higher, but the milestone is significant nonetheless.
Surprisingly, 55,000 of those counted are in the 0-6 age range, an encouraging statistic indicating more openness and acceptance among families.
And while transgender issues (particularly public health) remain serious challenges, every little step in the right direction counts.
In April of this year, the Indian supreme court ruled to officially recognize a third gender, giving potentially millions of transgender Indians the power of receiving quotas in areas like jobs and education, on par with other minorities.
“Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian,” said prominent transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi at the time.
India’s Prince Manvendra, the world’s only out royal, recently said:
“There have been families of transgenders who have been existing in our culture for centuries now. My own dynasty is 650 years old, but I know of transgender families that are even 800 years old. So they have been in existence much before even the Muslims or the Christians have influenced our country. And there is mention about transgenders in our religious texts, in our Hindu mythology. So I think it is more to do with our culture than any other thing.”
Visibility and education are two of the strongest tools to combat discrimination and harassment, so with hope each subsequent census will reflect a larger segment of the community.