Transgenders Help Tirupattur Cops Ensure Social Distancing

Tirupattur police have roped in transgenders to assist them in spreading awareness about the coronavirus pandemic.

Published
COVID-19
3 min read

Video Editor: Smitha TK

“Every day we would go to shops or hop on to trains to bless people and we would survive on what they give us. But since the lockdown, we have been left with no money, nothing to eat. We are petrified about the future,” said Aruna, a transgender based in Tirupattur, Tamil Nadu.

In a novel initiative, the Tirupattur police have roped in transgenders to assist them in spreading awareness about the coronavirus pandemic.

The Quint spoke to the transgenders in the district who said they are proud to be ‘friends of police’ during this difficult time.

Transgenders in the district said they are proud to be ‘friends of the police’ during this difficult time.
Transgenders in the district said they are proud to be ‘friends of the police’ during this difficult time.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Empowerment Through Volunteering

This initiative was started because since the lockdown, all stores have been shut and the community has been struggling to arrange for two square meals a day.

“Some of us would go to shops to ask for money, others staged small dance performances or street plays but now everything has been stopped. We are at home all day and have no means to earn. So when we reached out saying we would like to serve the public, the police gave us this opportunity,” Karpagam told The Quint.

They said that while there are a few dirty looks they get, most of the people actually listen to their instructions.
They said that while there are a few dirty looks they get, most of the people actually listen to their instructions.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Over 40-45 transgenders have been roped in for this activity and are even assisting cops at traffic check-points, Vijayakumar, Tirupattur Superintendent of Police, told The Quint.

“A few work for two-three hours, but some are very interested and insist on working for eight hours. We have issued ID cards and provide them with breakfast and lunch,” he said.

“We also arrange for weekly provisions and essentials...helping in whatever way we can. Since they stay in groups, it is easy for them to coordinate,” he added.

Duty Starts Before Sunrise

This initiative was started because since the lockdown, all stores have been shut and the community is struggling to even buy meals.
This initiative was started because since the lockdown, all stores have been shut and the community is struggling to even buy meals.
(Photo: The Quint)

“We go to the market at 3am. One transgender stands at every shop to ensure no one breaks the queue,” said Anbu.

“We tell people to maintain distance and stand apart while purchasing vegetables. Wearing a mask is a must. We even explain how they should buy vegetables and how they should wash them when they go back home.”
Kayalveli, Transgender, Tirupattur

“Many transgenders have been motivated by this and want to volunteer. The numbers are increasing everyday,” she added.

“We are even standing on the roads to stop vehicles and tell the riders to wear masks, enquire why they are outdoors and also explain how dangerous coronavirus is,” said Karpagam.

A Shift in People’s Attitude

Aavana says that while they do get dirty looks from people at times, the majority of them actually listen to their instructions.

“Earlier people would speak ill of us, but now they feel we too are regular people as we are working with the police. So they are listening to us. There are a few people who say, ‘Why should we listen to you? Go away?’ So we patiently explain that if they stand close, they could contract virus so they need to pay heed to our words.”
Anbu, Transgender, Tirupattur

“They then understand that we are talking for their good and so from the next day, they make sure they follow the norms,” she added.

While the volunteering has definitely made them feel empowered and is working towards changing the way people perceive them, they want a more permanent solution.

They appealed to the state government to give them stable jobs, proper accommodation and scholarships. “So many of us are extremely talented in music, dance, can run training centres. But we are not able to showcase our talents because we don’t have the opportunity. So if the government steps in and introduces any measures we will be grateful,” said Kayalveli.

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