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Why NCERT Junked Transgender Children Inclusion Manual After It Received Hate

Calling for gender-neutral toilets to uniforms, the NCERT manual had made suggestions for inclusive education.

Updated
Gender
5 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Calling for gender-neutral toilets to uniforms, the NCERT manual had made suggestions for inclusive education. But the manual was removed after outrage by right-leaning handles.</p></div>
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It took the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) seven years after the landmark National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) verdict to come up with a training manual to make school education more inclusive – with focus on transgender and gender nonconforming children.

But the guide book stayed online for barely seven days – before it was pulled down on 4 November.

Not only did right-wing affiliated groups outrage about it being 'too woke', 'American propaganda,' and attacked the panel of experts who gave their inputs, even the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) directed the council to 'rectify the anomalies.'

Why NCERT Junked Transgender Children Inclusion Manual After It Received Hate

  1. 1. What Exactly Did the Guidebook Say?

    A few pages of the manual, accessed by The Quint, showed that the training material aimed to integrate gender-nonconforming and transgender children in the school system and provide them an 'appropriate learning environment.'

    The training manual listed out various terms and tried to give a simple definition for each. For example, cisgender is an adjective given to those who identify with the same gender identity as the one assigned to them at birth.

    It explained that a gender-fluid person as one whose gender identity is 'non binary' and 'is capable of changing over time.' It differentiated 'agender' as 'identifying neither as a man nor as a woman.'

    It also touched upon terms like gender incongruence, gender dysphoria, gender affirmation, gender expression, gender conformity, gender variance, among others – as a part of its glossary.

    Poonam Agarwal, a Gender Studies professor at NCERT, told FirstPost:

    "The inclusion of all children is part of our mandate as an institution, so we decided to prepare training material that would sensitise teachers and teacher educators about the lived experiences, achievements, struggles, and aspirations of transgender and gender-nonconforming children. To make this happen, it was important to partner with people who belong to these communities, and are in close contact with grass root-level realities.”
    Expand
  2. 2. What's the Problem, Anyway?

    So, why exactly did the manual get removed? While the NCERT has not given a specific reason to making the manual private – it was done after outrage from right-wing leaning social media handles and OpInida.

    Publishing multiple misleading articles on the issue, OpIndia said that the manual stated that separate toilet for boys and girls was a "problem."

    But that is not what the manual asserted. It specifically addressed children who face gender dysphoria and said that they find it difficult to pick between binaries.

    "Children, who face gender dysphoria, feel conflict/dilemma while choosing the toilet that they feel comfortable. This is mainly because their self-concept and social expectations of their body do not coincide with each other. Therefore, presence of binaries in infrastructure also creates conflicts for gender nonconforming children who find it difficult to make a choice; at such a young age, it is an emotionally charged decision that additionally burdens them.”
    The manual
    Expand
  3. 3. The Vile Attack & Transphobia That Followed

    But the backlash did not end here. It extended to transphobic and queerphobic attack against members who contributed to the guide – by not only questioning their qualification, but also questioning their personal choices.

    Among the external team members are Dr Bittu Kaveri Rajaraman-Kondaiah, an Associate Professor of Biology and Psychology at Ashoka University, Priya Babu, the Managing Trustee at Transgender Resource Centre, and Dr L Ramakrishnan, Vice President, Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII).

    But multiple handles took transphobic digs at Vikramaditya Sahai, known online as vqueeram, who is an Associate at the Centre for Law and Policy Research.

    Expand
  4. 4. What Next?

    Meanwhile, on 11 November, the NCERT transferred two of the three senior faculty members of its Department of Gender Studies – including Agarwal – who developed the manual. Professor Mona Yadav, who was heading the department, and Agrawal, who was its HoD between 2015-18, have been transferred to the Department of Education of Groups with Special Needs and the Central Institute of Educational Technology respectively, reported The Indian Express.

    “The NCERT has informed the ministry that the document was still under process and it was inadvertently uploaded on the website. The council will provide the required response to the NCPCR. The manual has been drafted by the department of gender studies at the NCERT with all due considerations,” an unnamed source told Hindustan Times.

    However, there was no action taken to remove the document from the website for over 48 hours, until the social media outrage.

    "Some amount of backlash was expected given the times we live on. But I pray that the NCERT stands ground – because this is about our children's future. And their interests should be priority," a member of the external team, who contributed to the manual, told The Quint.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Exactly Did the Guidebook Say?

A few pages of the manual, accessed by The Quint, showed that the training material aimed to integrate gender-nonconforming and transgender children in the school system and provide them an 'appropriate learning environment.'

The training manual listed out various terms and tried to give a simple definition for each. For example, cisgender is an adjective given to those who identify with the same gender identity as the one assigned to them at birth.

It explained that a gender-fluid person as one whose gender identity is 'non binary' and 'is capable of changing over time.' It differentiated 'agender' as 'identifying neither as a man nor as a woman.'

It also touched upon terms like gender incongruence, gender dysphoria, gender affirmation, gender expression, gender conformity, gender variance, among others – as a part of its glossary.

Poonam Agarwal, a Gender Studies professor at NCERT, told FirstPost:

"The inclusion of all children is part of our mandate as an institution, so we decided to prepare training material that would sensitise teachers and teacher educators about the lived experiences, achievements, struggles, and aspirations of transgender and gender-nonconforming children. To make this happen, it was important to partner with people who belong to these communities, and are in close contact with grass root-level realities.”
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The manual also spoke about the importance of creating gender-neutral environment in schools. From suggesting gender-neutral uniforms to discouraging separate rows for boys and girls in classes and school assemblies, it called for more sensitivity towards children. One of the strategies listed including building gender-neutral toilets in schools.

It also suggested that if there is any bias against transgender persons in the curriculum, it should be eliminated from textbooks and other teaching materials.

It contained a separate section on 'Success Stories of Transgender Persons to Serve as Role Models' – featuring engineer Grace Banu, bodybuilder Aryan Pasha, dancer Narthaki Nataraj, professor Dr Aqsa Shaikh, news anchor Padmini Prakash, among others.

What's the Problem, Anyway?

So, why exactly did the manual get removed? While the NCERT has not given a specific reason to making the manual private – it was done after outrage from right-wing leaning social media handles and OpInida.

Publishing multiple misleading articles on the issue, OpIndia said that the manual stated that separate toilet for boys and girls was a "problem."

But that is not what the manual asserted. It specifically addressed children who face gender dysphoria and said that they find it difficult to pick between binaries.

"Children, who face gender dysphoria, feel conflict/dilemma while choosing the toilet that they feel comfortable. This is mainly because their self-concept and social expectations of their body do not coincide with each other. Therefore, presence of binaries in infrastructure also creates conflicts for gender nonconforming children who find it difficult to make a choice; at such a young age, it is an emotionally charged decision that additionally burdens them.”
The manual
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In the same article, OpIndia said that NCERT had published 'unfounded claims that there were multiple genders in Vedic age.'

By publishing a series of random tweets that called the manual 'woke', 'too American', 'disastrous' and 'beginning of the end' – OpIndia concluded that NCERT did not have 'popular support' for their manual.

On 2 November, the NCPCR wrote to NCERT stating that it received various complaints over the manual. One of the complainants was Vinay Joshi, a former RSS pracharak, who alleged that the manual was a “criminal conspiracy...to psychologically traumatise school students under the name of gender sensitisation."

“The text of the manual suggests gender-neutral infrastructure for children that does not commensurate with their gender realities and basic needs. Also, the idea of creating and removing binaries shall deny them equal rights of children of diverse biological needs. Second, this approach will expose children to unnecessary psychological trauma due to contradictory environments at home and in school,” NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said in the letter to NCERT.
Why NCERT Junked Transgender Children Inclusion Manual After It Received Hate

The Vile Attack & Transphobia That Followed

But the backlash did not end here. It extended to transphobic and queerphobic attack against members who contributed to the guide – by not only questioning their qualification, but also questioning their personal choices.

Among the external team members are Dr Bittu Kaveri Rajaraman-Kondaiah, an Associate Professor of Biology and Psychology at Ashoka University, Priya Babu, the Managing Trustee at Transgender Resource Centre, and Dr L Ramakrishnan, Vice President, Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII).

But multiple handles took transphobic digs at Vikramaditya Sahai, known online as vqueeram, who is an Associate at the Centre for Law and Policy Research.

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A handle @YearOfTheKraken – which did not identify by name or face – posted photos from Sahai's private Instagram account, leading the smear campaign.

OpIndia also wrote an entire article based on a series of tweets with photos – 'Vikramaditya Sahai, NCERT and woke propaganda.'

"People who post semi-nude photographs of themself (sic) on social media, and harbour ostensibly hateful opinions about Hindus, should not have a say in the education of children," it wrote.

Sahai is a postgraduate in political science from University of Delhi. They have previously worked as faculty at the Gender Studies Department, Ambedkar University – and is very much qualified to be a part of the external panel.

Why NCERT Junked Transgender Children Inclusion Manual After It Received Hate

What Next?

Meanwhile, on 11 November, the NCERT transferred two of the three senior faculty members of its Department of Gender Studies – including Agarwal – who developed the manual. Professor Mona Yadav, who was heading the department, and Agrawal, who was its HoD between 2015-18, have been transferred to the Department of Education of Groups with Special Needs and the Central Institute of Educational Technology respectively, reported The Indian Express.

“The NCERT has informed the ministry that the document was still under process and it was inadvertently uploaded on the website. The council will provide the required response to the NCPCR. The manual has been drafted by the department of gender studies at the NCERT with all due considerations,” an unnamed source told Hindustan Times.

However, there was no action taken to remove the document from the website for over 48 hours, until the social media outrage.

"Some amount of backlash was expected given the times we live on. But I pray that the NCERT stands ground – because this is about our children's future. And their interests should be priority," a member of the external team, who contributed to the manual, told The Quint.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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