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India’s Rainbow Station Positive Move, But Shall We First Fix the Everyday Discrimination?

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The sector 50 station on the Aqua line is headed to be called ‘Rainbow station’, in an attempt to provide visibility to the trans community. This is a first of its kind initiative in North India, after the Kochi metro started recruiting transpeople into their staff. This new name comes after a host of critique from a lot of trans people themselves.

The Noida Metro Rail Corporation, runs across Noida and Greater Noida.  It has decided to dedicate the sector 50 station to the Transgender community. The NMRC, is bringing forth this measure as a means to celebrate the 4.9 lakh trans people in India, 30,000 of which reside in Delhi. In their own words “The She-Man station will cater specially to the Transgender community, though it will be open to all passengers and will provide facilities to facilitate the Travel of the trans community in the metro station and also provide employment opportunities for them.”

Last week, when this announcement was made, the metro was to be called the She-Man station. This name was rolled back after several notable trans activists from the community called out the inherent transphobia in this name. After receiving suggestions from activists and NGOs from the community, it was decided to finally name it “Rainbow Station” . Albeit this name is more widely accepted and preferred to the previous ones, many activists still believe the name is another form of trans erasure. This comes after a long history of many petty tactics of governments across the country to appease the cisgender queer community in the name of LGBTQ+ liberation. 

Trans Erasure and LGBQ Appeasement

Trans erasure, is an active problem seen across queer circles. It exists because non queer people still limit their support to more monetizable forms of queerness. There also exists an inherent transphobia of cisgender queer individuals. Trans people are often alienated from the very movement they started, in the hands of more privileged members of the community. Thus, LGBTQI+ liberation has never been emancipation for all. Most times has just been progress for one community and disenfranchisement for others. Governments and organizations, often see the whole community as a homogeneous group. They paint their ‘progressive politics’ with a single coloured brush, while not noticing it is only some queers that are being liberated.

While this move, is progressive one, its benefit is enormously curtailed due to the draconian Transgender (Protection of Rights) Act, that was passed last year. Even the benefits that ensue are likely to be only for a few trans people, with documentation that fits the rigid boundaries of the Trans Act 2019. It is even more ironic, that the UP government, a stakeholder of the NMRC comes forward with this decision, while also supporting the Trans Bill explicitly. 

Is the metro inclusive of Trans people?

Furthermore, this comes from a Metro Rail Corporation, and the metro isn’t exactly a friend of trans folk. The metro, like all other public spaces, is a gendered space, split into a binary. Be it from entry through binary frisking points, gender-specific washrooms and even the ambiguous women’s compartment.  The gendered queue which trans people have to choose is completely decided by the security person working there. In several instances, trans people have been asked to go to the other queue and been reduced to an open point of debate and discussion for deciding which queue is fit for them. Several trans people also report sexual harassment in these queues, being groped inappropriately and being asked to strip.  Moreover, many trans women do not find the ‘women’s coach’ to be inclusive of all women, having been asked to leave, or been the subject of ridicule and endless slurs. 

Therefore, a move like this has to be supported by many others to be really revolutionary. It isn’t about making one station for trans people only, instead, all metro stations inclusive of trans people. Public spaces, have for long been elusive of trans presence. Thus, it becomes essential to not just mark symbolic acceptance, but have systematic inclusion.