Ever wondered what the death of irony sounds like -- like literally? Union minister of state for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale, who is the founder-leader of the Ambedkarite Republican Party of India in Maharashtra, gave a painful illustration of it recently.
At a workshop for the sensitisation of transgender people and other stakeholders, he asked members of the community not to wear saris because -- it's obvious -- they are not women. "They are not men, they are not women, but they are human ... why should they wear a sari when they are not women?"
Let's parse this sentence for a moment.
Does the minister mean: (a) Men and women are not humans? and (b) whoever wears a sari must be a woman?
Assuming, from the drift of Athawale's remarks, the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, we must say we have news for him.
Apropos (a), the absurdity of his remark is so staggering that we can only point him to a biology primer or, better still, to a dictionary.
As for (b), whatever welfare Athawale wants to bring to the trans community -- he does, admittedly, want to pass a bill that's meant to address its social and economic upliftment in several ways -- he first needs to take a crash course in the foundations of sexual difference and gender identities. Else he will think us mad for pointing out, for instance, that a cis-male (genderqueer or not) person may also wear a sari with joy.
Athawale's alternative to transpeople in saris, the sight of which seems to offend his patriarchal eyes, is the following: "They can wear pant and shirt. They should be wearing men's dress." Clearly, Athawale hasn't had the chance to lay his eyes upon women in the said articles of clothing or the opportunity to check the century he lives in.
While giving gyan about dress codes is a favourite pastime of most Indians, especially if they happen to be elderly cis gender people, it seems the minister hasn't yet encountered trans men, who do, indeed, like to wear clothes traditionally associated with cis-male identity.
But then, all this may be TMI for someone who seems to believe that 'human' is a gender identity as distinct from male and female.
There are many readers, we hope, who have read thus far and wondered why this is news at all. We can only gently remind them that the speaker of these incomparable wisdom is an elected representative of the people, mandated with the power to dispense justice and empower his electorate.
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