By SAMHITA BAROOAH
Its been a harrowing time deliberating on the construction, re-construction and deconstruction of gender identities. As an educator in the social sector, some of us have been struggling with the myth breaking, earth shattering and demystifying experiences of co-creating transitions of adolescent, adulting and elderly minds on how gender identities are understood. In today’s pandemic world, gender identities have taken a prominent virtual space capturing everyone’s interest and attention. Thus academic, social organizations, state authorities and corporate agencies are all focused on interpreting and emphasizing on gender related concerns across sectors through the webinar and online seminar modes. Recently when one of the premier universities of North-East India shared their flyer on a webinar on Gender Minorities within the North East context, I got a little startled.
Gender and sexual identities are always synonymous with the umbrella context of being ‘women’ which has its own problems. Only during the post 377 era, people are trying to look up the dictionary meaning of the word, ‘queer’ within an otherwise hostile home space. Gender diversity is bring celebrated through people’s acceptance of their self-identity and their association with others through their celebrated identity. In some pockets even the homo-normative identities are celebrated and socially recognized through marriages, cultural acceptance and community support. But the understanding of inclusion cannot be rested on positioning the gender diversity as a reflection of gender minority.
When it comes to gender and sexuality the restricted limitations of being a minority or majority gets fluid. It depends on the life cycle shifts in a human being which may be biological, circumstantial or choice based that determines their preferences in expressing or closeting one’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Are vulnerabilities of social class, ethnicity, caste, geographical and collective categorization in a single biological or transitional gender only way of practicing social inclusion of the gender diverse identities? In that sense the academic structure sharing their inclusive stance through the gender minority lens becomes thoroughly problematic. Why couldn’t gender and sexual diversity be discussed in the academia without the over tone of looking down or focusing on a peripheral gaze, making it a thoroughly ‘Othering process’. It is these academic spaces which theorizes and patents innovations that emerge with the inclusion or exclusion of gender diversity. But the patronizing positioning of an emerging and vibrant community of hope into a ‘gender minority’ further marginalizes the community. The moment the dichotomy of difference is raised from a sense of perfection, the presumptive lack gets reflected. Why are these discussions based on ‘us and them’? The seeds of inequality are sown in the very conceptualization of the topic of discussion. Does our universities find it restricted to address conceptualizing and deconstruction of existing concepts related to gender diversity without adding the gender minority tag? Adding this tag is presumptive.
There is a sense of pity in positioning anyone as a minority for that matter. Is it only this sense of pity and lack which will determine whether gender diversity can be fit to be discussed in the academia or not? In this context gender queer awareness building seems to be the need of the hour through diverse platforms which includes people, processes, policies and practice with dignity and equity especially within the academia as per the new education policy, 2020. Academic spaces are empowering spaces for all genders irrespective of the normative or non-normative status. But if one begins the process of academic discourse from an unequal position, then how can inclusive strategies be devised to build greater solidarity across genders. Gender as such is elusive, dynamic and evolving how can an academic discourse bind it in layers of vulnerabilities, targeted category and exclusion. Inclusive approach cannot be rooted in the ideas being at a majority position in any context. There is a need to address the issues of diversity within and outside the accepted gender identity in any society for that matter. Does gender get counted only through the population counts? Is that the only criteria to position gender in an air tight box of being a minority or a majority?