TN government comes out with new glossary for LGBTQIA persons

Sometimes, terms used to denote a community can be derogatory and patronising. To sensitise people to the feelings of the transgender community, the TN government has introduced a nw glossary

A woman by birth who transits and becomes a man will now be referred to as thirunambi. Representational image

Tamil Nadu, which has always taken the lead to introduce progressive measures to better the life of transgenders, has once again come up with a first-of-its-kind initiative to benefit the third gender community.

Back in September 2008, Tamil Nadu took a step towards mainstreaming sexual minorities by constituting a Transgender Welfare Board. (This is compared to the nation’s capital, Delhi, which gave an approval for the setting up of a Transgender Board only in January 2022) The state also became the first to implement a monthly pension of ₹1,000 and extend subsidised bank loans for the transgender community.

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The government’s Social Welfare and Women Empowerment Department has now come out with a set of legally acceptable glossary related to LGBTQIA (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex Asexual) terms and released it in its extraordinary gazette dated August 20, 2022.

Five categories

The terms are classified under five categories, namely sex, gender, sexuality, as well as collective and community terms. There are three terms given under the category sex, 15 words under gender, eight words under sexuality, two words under collective terms and four words under community.

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For example, for the term ‘intersex’ (people who have innate sex characteristics that do not fit medical and social norms for female and male bodies; these can include external or internal reproductive parts, chromosome patterns, and/or hormonal patterns), the Tamil media till now used the term ‘transgenders’ or used the transliteration. Some media houses used the word idaiyilangam. But the glossary now offers the word oodupaal/idaippaal.

Similarly, a woman by birth who transited and became a man is being identified as thirunangai (which mainly denotes a man who became a woman but commonly referred to as a transwoman). That person will now be called a thirunambi. Also, the term ‘queer’ is being transliterated for the Tamil media, and should be identified now as paal pudhumaiyar.

The media, particularly the Tamil media, are expected to use this glossary as a guide while publishing news and articles on the transgender community. This move is expected to put an end to the casual use of derogatory and pejorative terms and also help not to misidentify members of the LGBTQIA community, while reporting.

Earlier measures

When the DMK was in power in the past, then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi used to coin suitable words in Tamil, trying to remove the stigma attached to the existing terms with reference to the community. For example, he coined the terms maatru thiranaaligal to replace the words udal oonamutroor, which is used to indicate differently abled people.

Similarly, he coined the terms kaimpen, which replaced the word vidhavai that identified widows, and thirunangai, to identify transwomen.