Pride marches and events are organized world-wide by and for the LGBTQ+ community, when hundreds of thousands of people come together to celebrate the progress that has been made in LGBTQ+ equality and also to show support for the community, hoping that those who are not out yet can feel comfort and be inspired to live their authentic lives. But there are also an overwhelmingly huge number of places/countries where Pride marches are still organized around protests and demands for basic rights and equality for the LGBTQ+ community. Within the LGBTQ+ community, transgender people are the most marginalized and discriminated against. It is quite ironic though, as it is the transgender community which has always been at the forefront of the fight for rights for the larger LGBTQ+ community.

As a quick history lesson, the first Pride events began in Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles in 1970 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that happened in New York the year before. The riots were led by transgender women of color to protest the police brutality and oppression of the LGBTQ+ community. That event has been widely credited as having started the LGBTQ+-rights revolution around the world. Although there has been a lot of progress in terms of LGBTQ+ equality, especially in the western countries, the story of the transgender community is still that of a lot oppression. This highlights the need for allyship and support that the transgender community deserves.

It is well documented that for many reasons, be it cultural and/or religious, the transgender community is most misunderstood and oppressed by the society in general and in some cases even by the larger queer community. Sometimes, members of the queer community can escape discrimination or violence by “passing” (behaving like a mainstream heterosexual person). But that is not possible for most transgender people as they may not have resources to fully transition and hence may be more easily identified visibly. This puts them as a much higher risk of discrimination and oppression. All over the world, transgender people get pushed to the social fringes, physically abused and even murdered for just being who they are.

However, when compared to the western societies, the relationship of the larger Indian society with the transgender community is more complicated. While the transgender community has been visibly a part of the Indian society since time immemorial, with special customs and practices revolving around them, they are still very marginalized and stigmatized which prevents them from being equal members of the mainstream society, restricting them to the fringes. More recently, there have been judicial and legislative developments that are in the right direction. In 2014, the Supreme Court of India established the validity of the “third gender” and provided a directive to the central govt to establish policies and frameworks for the betterment of the transgender community in India. Since then, many states have taken numerous steps to help uplift the community and bring them into the fold of the mainstream society. More recently, Ministry of Home Affairs is seeking input from various security and paramilitary forces in India to start commissioning transgender people and initial inputs from the forces has been extremely positive.

But there is still a long way to go, especially in the minds and outlook of the Indian people to fully accept and treat transgender people with equality. And we all have to work on that – as vocal and visible allies. We should encourage conversations to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity issues and always stand up for our transgender brothers and sisters (and those in between and beyond) when we see injustice and discrimination. Borrowing from a colleague and friend, there is no perfect way to be allies, but we can try to follow the steps:

Acknowledge that we may have biases and incorrect conditioning

Listen to the community

Learn from the community and unlearn misconceptions

Initiate conversations

Educate ourselves and those around us

Support by getting involved

About the Author
An odia export, Bismay Mishra is a market researcher working for a bio-tech firm, based in the great San Francisco Bay Area. He is also the global co-lead of the LGBTQ+ employee group in his company, working to further inclusion and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community at his workplace and beyond. He loves traveling, meeting people, exploring cultures and taking the opportunity to have conversations around complex topics. You can follow him on
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