Third sex gets official status in Tamil Nadu
So far Pooja, a 25-year-old transsexual from Salem in Tamil Nadu, had nothing to prove her existence in government records because she had refused to be identified as either a male or a female, the only two options available in the gender column of the application forms.
Finally, the state has recognized her as an individual and given her a ration card where the sex column is marked T instead of M or F.
The step by Tamil Nadu's civil supplies department marks the first time that authorities anywhere in India have recognised the group. In Tamil Nadu alone, where transsexuals like Pooja started getting ration cards on Thursday, it would allow the estimated 40,000 members of the community to identify themselves as a third gender.
This endorses the community's alternative gender status and allows them to avail of government welfare schemes without being forced to present themselves as males or females.
"It's a move to support these marginalized people. They exist and we cannot ignore them. We have to accept them as third gender," said social welfare minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna, a gynaecologist herself.
"We started with ration cards because it was the simplest thing to do. Other documents such as passports and voter identity cards will involve policy decisions of the Centre."