The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented human crisis that is claiming lives, destroying livelihoods and disrupting economies across the world. With the support of UNAIDS, the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) and Youth LEAD have worked together to increase the visibility and voices of trans and gender diverse youth leaders throughout Asia and the Pacific. This is the second in a series of six feature stories about trans youth leaders and the strength they show amidst the challenges of COVID-19.
Read the other posts in the series here: APTN x YouthLEAD’s Dignity Amidst COVID-19: Stories of Trans Youth Leaders
What It Means to be Intersex in India
I am Dit Mangang, I am intersex and self-identify as a transgender person. I am from Manipur, a state located in the most northeastern part of India. I recently graduated from Manipur Institute of Technology, and now volunteer for YA ALL; an organization that works mostly on the health and well-being of adolescents, youths, and the LGBTIQ community. I started working as an advocate when I was seventeen, and since then, I’ve been advocating for intersex people and their rights to education.
I’ve always considered myself an introvert. Growing up, I had an identity crisis, and I also suffered from depression. I was born intersex, but as no one was aware of the term, and no one could advocate for me, I struggled at the beginning to know who I was. For many years I was doing what society was expecting from me, pretending to be a girl, something that didn’t fit my identity. When I found out about the term intersex, I finally felt like something was representing me. This experience has changed my life; I was able to show and explain to people who I was.
I learned about the term intersex through someone else’s story. Since then, I feel passionate about other people’s success stories and motivational videos. Nowadays, I like to share my story to encourage Intersex people to enjoy their lives and never give up on their studies. As an activist, I also think that sharing my story will create awareness about the existence of Intersex people. I believe that not only in India but all over the world, there is a lack of understanding or knowledge of Intersex people. The LGBTIQ discourse focuses mainly on transgender people, but very often, intersex people are left out. In India, for example, I am only aware of a few intersex activists. In the northeastern part of India, awareness or knowledge on intersex people is still very low, even among LGBTIQ communities, which further adds to the rejection and discrimination of intersex people. That’s why I focus my efforts on awareness and to promote a better understanding of intersex people.
My goal is to be not only an activist, but a public speaker, and I want to set an example for others by sharing my own story. Despite facing discrimination from educational institutions and society, I have never given up on my educational goals, and I always felt passionate about my career. I want to encourage and inspire others to continue their studies regardless of the discrimination that they are facing. At the same time, I want to create awareness in society regarding the inclusion and social acceptance of intersex people in the educational system and institutions. Education is a powerful tool to transform and influence societies, throughout education we can influence our communities and build safer environments for trans people. I wish the coming generation of intersex people will never face the same discrimination that I have gone through during my childhood.
Young transgender activists leading the COVID-19 pandemic
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has been significantly impacted. For trans women, most of them are financially independent of their families. They have their own business or jobs, but because of the lockdown, they have not been able to run their businesses as usual. For trans men, they have lost their jobs and are most of the time-dependent on their families. The majority of trans people in India have lost their jobs and are unable to pay for their accommodations or daily expenses.
Trans people are also facing difficulties accessing their hormone treatments. The majority of trans people have to travel to the main cities to get their medications, but lockdowns and travel restrictions due to COVID-19, hinder them from going. As a response, the central government has implemented some resources to assist transgender people during the pandemic, by providing them with around 40 USD per month. However, in my region, only a tiny percentage of trans people have been able to access this financial support scheme set up by the government. Nevertheless, the pandemic has also had some positive impact on our trans community. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we used to have limited participants in our events, due to daily obligations and personal matters. But, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and people started to have more free time, we have witnessed increasing participation in our online events and activities.
Through the support of Youth LEAD and the YKP COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, a grant scheme to support young key populations and young people living with HIV in the time of COVID-19; Ya_All was able to set up an initiative to distribute first aid kits with sanitary pads and condoms to middle-class and low-income families across the state. In total, we managed to reach approximately 500 families. We also received support from the state government with transportation to enable us to distribute medical kits to families. Ya All has placed efforts in providing mental health support, through a hotline service allowing young people to talk to mental health professionals on issues such as anxiety, stress and depression. We have also been providing some financial assistance to trans people who are facing challenges with rent payments as well as daily expenses.
For all youngsters who are facing difficulties, do not be afraid to reach out to your friends or reach out to any of the free mental support initiatives in your country to overcome the challenges in your life. Try to focus your energy and time in learning new things, work on new projects, enjoy your hobbies and spend time with your family and friends.