Arvind Kejriwal's move to make metros and DTC cluster buses free for women has been met with enthusiasm and applause from some quarters while receiving brickbats from others. While the move would definitely be a step toward making public transport more gender inclusive, it misses out on an important aspect of truly making spaces equally inclusive for all gender - the LGBTQIA+.
By making public transport affordable for women, the AAP government hopes to increase the number of women using public transport, the idea being that an increase in the number of women would make these spaces safer and more accessible for women. But what about transmwomen? Or those who do not "look" like women or fall within the gender binary?
For many in the queer community, public transport is not the first choice of transport. Anindya Hajra, a transwoman and activist from Delhi, agreed that several transpersons were subjected to harassment or ridicule on public transport. However, most had no other choice. "Many in the trans community also require economic assistance. Subsidised, if not free fares for trans persons could be a start in making metros and buses more accessible to them," she told News18 over the phone.
However, Hajra conceded that the problem was deeper than that. She stressed on the fact that even if fares were subsidised or removed for transpersons, the issue of othering remained. Speaking to News18, Delhi-based transmmasculine professor and scientist Kathik Bittu Kondaiah said, "Despite trans being identified as third gender, there is no separate queue for transpersons." stating that the current approach to public transport ignores the lived realities of the queer community.
The gendered queues are not the only problem. "The fact that there is no separate security checks for transpersons is strange. No one expects a man or a woman to go through the security check of the opposite gender," he said.
Bittu suggested that adding reserved seats for trans people in public transport like buses and metros may help bring about further acceptance and empower trans commuters.
While the trans community have their third gender status as a constitutional safeguard, others across the queer spectrum have it even harder. Writer and queer activist Vikramaditya Sahai who has written a lot on androgyny and the sexuality beyond the binary, said that the biggest flaw with adding any kind of reservations or concessions for the trans or queer community, while conducive in some ways, is also a problem as it increases the potential for policing and physical "checks" to ensure the concessions were going to the
"First, trans people make up only the T of LGBT. Even if we add separate security checks for the third gender, there are still many across the spectrum who are not represented," Vikramaditya said. "Imagine a biological male who wears skirts. Which queue would you put them in?" They stressed only a concerted push toward greater sensitisation toward gender and queerness at all levels can increase gender inclusivity of public spaces. "If there are more queer guards, clerks and metro officials, that could make a difference. Offices hiring more queer employees would make a difference," Vikramaditya said, adding that only "woke" activism and a chapter on gender in schools )if at all) were not enough to bring about real change.
Meanwhile, AAP has maintained that the decision is yet in its nascent change and is open to feedback. "We are at present seeking suggestions from citizens in Delhi on this matter," AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj told News18, "We are open to any ideas that can help us increase the safety of public transport in the city," Bhardwaj said.
AAP's National Joint Secretary Akshay Marathe said there has been 'no discussion' on it so far.