Let’s Take A Look At What It’s Like To Be Trans All Over The World

In recent times, trans rights have advanced tremendously, especially in developed countries. Nations like Sweden, Israel and New Zealand have seen great leaps forwards when it comes to trans rights, including the election of a trans member of parliament and the recruitment of trans soldiers in some militaries around the world. Right here at home, states like California have enacted relatively progressive policies medically, including integrating transition costs into the state’s Medicaid program. But the fact of the matter is that in other, less-developed countries, social premonitions and unresponsive and bureaucratic governments have prevented trans people from living their lives according to their gender identity. 

India

During the past decade, trans rights have actually progressed, albeit slowly, in this large and diverse nation. In a series of landmark cases between 1994 and 2014, the Indian Supreme Court progressively began enacting protections for trans people. In the most recent case, Sanjeev Bhatnagar, an advocate who represented a trans individual in the lawsuit, released a statement affirming the Indian legal community’s consistent respect of LGBT and human rights, including those of the transgender community. On the local and state levels, governments have even began to issue employment quotas and education protections for trans* people. As more and more members of India’s hijra and transgender community are getting college degrees, elected positions, municipal jobs and even subsidized transition surgeries, issues concerning their life in the nation are also being highlighted as well.

Although more and more hijra and trans people are receiving long-term, stable employment in the nation, there is still a disproportionate amount of them living in abject poverty, forced to work in professions such as prostitution and heckling, they are often reduced to existing at the lowest margins of society, deprived of their rights to social services and opportunities. And while there were aforementioned court cases released in their favor, many reports agree that these decisions, guidelines and regulations aren’t being implemented correctly, forcing many trans persons to live in the same abject poverty they were destined to in the first place. In addition, the jobs set aside by municipal governments are low-paying and selective, making it an nonviable alternative to prostitution and begging.

Trans* women, or “Hijra” in India hold a unique place in society, as they are greatly involved in local religion. That being said, more often then not, they are forced to live at the margins of society. Credit: Kabir Orlowski
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Pakistan

Unlike their larger neighbor to the south, Pakistan hasn’t made the legal nor political leaps and strides India has when it comes to the trans community. Like in India, the colloquial term for trans persons, or those who have an identity different than that assigned at birth, are referred to as hijra. Recently, the Pakistani government has rolled out regulations validating the third-gender label adopted by numerous hijra, but it still hasn’t enacted clear, definitive policy measures designed to assist and validate the trans community in that nation. In other words, some of the protections trans individuals are afforded in other south Asian countries are absent in Pakistan.

On a more local, socioeconomic level, trans and hijra persons are reduced to working in demeaning, dehumanizing occupations, such as unregulated prostitution. Because of this sad but undeniable truth, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases are rampant among the extended LGBT community as a whole. According to a study by BMC Public Health, the HIV prevalence among the hijra community in certain cities is greater than 27%.

Trans* Women in South Asia are oftentimes deprived of their rights and freedoms due to their identity.
Credit: FHI BANGLADESH

Venezuela

While this South American nation isn’t a bastion of civil rights or democracy, Venezuelans all across the country are proving to be a sizeable force when it comes to advancing LGBT rights. In recent years, the nation has seen an outpouring of support for the trans community, especially after its first transgender legislator was elected to the country’s National Assembly. Despite these tremendous, historical advancements, however, the lack of democratic freedoms in the country prevents these elected officials, who are firmly in opposition to the country’s Maduro regime, from carrying out their duties. Meanwhile, the aforementioned assemblywoman, Tamara Adrian, is still advancing the LGBT rights cause, even if she is being deprived of her earned right to represent her constituents in the national legislature.

As the first elected trans* legislator in Venezuela, Tamara Adrian is a promoter of LGBT rights in the country. Credit: Omarcribis

Honduras

This small, coastal Central American nation has had a rough history and relationship with human rights, democracy and crime. With an indifferent government, unresponsive police force, and a murder rate that increases every year, sexual minorities are placed at an extremely uncomfortable place in Honduran society.

In this nation, which has an extremely high unemployment rate for the general population, transgender and other LGBT people are disproportionately affected by the rising crime rate and lack of economic opportunities. Forced to work in professions like sex work and narco-trafficking, trans Hondurans are forced, like in previous examples, to live at the margins of society. Unlike Venezuela, Pakistan or India, however, there are no legal or political protections for these populations, which greater increases their chances to fall into such despair. In recent times, there has been a surge of political activists representing the transgender community, but they have been systematically silenced by the government and society. In 2011, a trans activist was murdered brutally outside of her home, and five other transgender women were killed in the cities of Comayaguela and San Pedro Sula, according to Human Rights Watch. Meanwhile, the central government has been quiet on the issue, prompting numerous organizations, both Honduran and International, to petition former and current presidents to take judicial action on behalf of the victims.

With an ill-equipped police force and a lack of respect for trans* rights, LGBT individuals in Honduras are prone to abuse and rampant crime. Credit: Zach Clark

South Africa

This African nation has had a long and troubled history with minorities. While the intentional discrimination against the majority African community ended with the fall of Apartheid, other minorities, including sexual minorities and the transgender community, are being sidelined and pushed away every day. This nation has done what it can to help trans and LGBT people, especially with new policies in respect to transitioning, but there is still tremendous work to be done.

With corrective rapes, social apprehension and trans-specific murders on the rise in the nation, it’s hard for transgender individuals to live openly. Furthermore, as seen time and time again in other developing nations, transgender individuals are placed at the bottom of the social totem pole, which furthers their systematic discrimination.

In this African nation, LGBT rights have been severely curtailed, limited and endangered. Here, a group of activists protest the constant endangerment of LGBT identified individuals. Credit: Charles Haynes
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While all of these five nations are quite different culturally, politically and economically, they are unified by a common theme when it comes to LGBT rights: social premonitions prevent governments from effectively helping and reaching out to trans communities. From Pakistan to Honduras, trans men and women are forced to support themselves through dehumanizing occupations. But there is hope; more and more governments are enacting protections, rolling out employment quotas and ensuring education for the transgender community. Now, the onus is on society to ensure the successful cohesion of these minorities, as the policies are already in place.

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