Media Hounding of Transgender Community in Assam

By Samhita Barooah

Trans means transformation, transitionary, transcendental and could be transnational as well. Recently we saw the media getting very concerned about the transgender community. Assamese news channels flashing news about criminalising and communalising the transgender communities of Assam.

The reports categorised the transgender community into three types. First one as those who are born transgender which is essentialised as natural. Second category are those who act as transgender and express themselves as transgenders to earn money. Third category is alloted to those who went through the hormonal and medically supervised sex reaffirmation surgery under medical guidance as transgender. Such mansplained report focused on patriarchal structural violence on transgender community. The report also accused some transwomen with Muslim identities of forcefully engaging transgender persons into sex work, organ reassignment without consent and money laundering.

Various persons with Muslim identities were targeted in the news report to show that they have trafficked young men from different parts of Assam to lure them for jobs and engaged them into the sex trade and forceful castration of their sex organs. In fact, the news report also showed the fights between migrant transgender persons from outside Assam and those within Assam regarding their citizenship concerns and space sharing within the shelter homes. The insensitive reporting of Assamese media has jeopardised the diversity and rights of consent, self determination of transition and the essence of being intersexed, asexual, cross-dressing, two-spirited, transsexual, gender fluid and agender persons as well. With one sensational report the media has judged the diverse gender identities, sexual orientations and non-binary sexualities of human beings whose lives are in the margins. The queerness of externalities has marginalised the queer communities across social class, caste, gender spectrum and location specific identity formations.

What the reports focussed was exclusionary, dehumanising and discriminatory. Transgender community builds their support through their self-sustaining resources. Their lives are entangled into rediscovering themselves and accepting their marginalities with self-assertion, acceptance and solidarities of decolonised humanity. With sensational criminalising, dehumanising and accusations of the media, the transgender community has been further excluded from the so-called mainstream heteronormative society. All the activism and sensitisation of queer rights communities have been pushed to the peripheries of criminality, communalisation and immigration from across the boundaries. Such insensitivity can only emerge from deep-rooted inhibition, hatred and fears of one’s own biases.
Transgender communities from working class communities address their vulnerabilities of survival needs through their community institutions of gharanas. They live with family, society and community scorn for their gender identities since their childhood. With support from law, employment, education and at times transgender gharanas they tend to support their own transition surgeries if they feel the need for it. The thin layers of sexual orientation, gender identities and gender expressions cannot be dismissed or dismantled with insensitive reporting of criminalisation. What compels a transgender person to beg or get into commercial sex work opens up many questions about the flourishing demand market of sexual services and trafficking. Victimisation of the visible service provider is a common norm for society but what about the perpetrators and those who consumes such services. Abusers are more prominent within the so-called binary world across the gender spectrum. Any form of work which sustains the livelihoods, identities and families of transgender communities needs support from all sections of society. Media projections have to include transgender issues in totality and remove age old biases not endorse the existing biases. This calls for serious concerns about gender sensitisation of media persons who writes, edits and presents audio visual news reports. Sensitivity does not get reflected unless transgender communities are not targeted to get additional TRP mileage in today’s media world.

Samhita Barooah

Samhita Barooah

Dr. Samhita Barooah
 is Educator and QueerUp Founder