EQUAL GROUND, Sri Lanka’s only non-profit organization that strives to ensure equal rights for Sri Lanka’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, Transgender and other wider identities of Sri Lanka’s queer community, set aside the 10th of December 2014 to commemorate “Transgender Day of Remembrance” and International Human Rights Day at the Goethe Institute of Colombo to memorialize the lives of Transgenders lost to transphobia and prejudice.
EQUAL GROUND’s objective in hosting this event was to increase public awareness of what it means to be Transgender, the discrimination they face on a daily basis in various aspects of their complex lives, to honour the lives of transmen and transwomen who might otherwise be forgotten; to express love, respect and allegiance to Transgender people in the face of widespread indifference and hatred towards them and to give EQUAL GROUND’s Transgender allies a platform to come together and stand in vigil, memorializing those lives lost at the hands of anti-Transgender violence.
The event commenced with a speech by research analyst Damith Chandimal that shed light from a statistic perspective, on Sri Lanka’s burgeoning population of Transgender youth and adults present in Colombo and Anuradhapura. The trailer to a Trans documentary followed highlighting the fact that despite Sri Lankans living in times comparatively more sensitive to gender based violence than previous years, the deaths of and attacks on Transgender people and the difficulties they face in day to day life are ignored by the majority, especially by those who hypocritically claim to oppose gender based violence while only including women and children under that umbrella. The documentary also underlined the fact that the heinous crimes of violence faced by Transgenders in Sri Lanka and the prejudice, stigma and phobia of them prevalent here is a trend that shows no sign of abating at present unless attitudes and perspectives are changed by people having empathy for Transgender people considering they are no less human than they are and being educated and informed on the intricacies of their predicaments to reduce the marginalization of Transgender youth both in rural and urban Sri Lanka.
The drama was the highlight of the evening with LGBTIQ and heterosexual supporters of EQUAL GROUND alike partaking in it to help the public understand the complications faced by Transgender youth in unaccepting families and the trauma that stigmatizing and marginalizing them ensues. It touched on profoundly important issues such as the hardship involved in coming out to an unsupportive family, living as the sex of one’s choosing prior to a full sex change operation, challenges in finding employment due to unfair discrimination based on a very limited or “conventional” understanding of what the term “gender” implies and emphasizing the fact that a parent’s love for their child should be unconditional without gender ever having to come into play.
The drama put a humorous twist on the dark reality of the lonely and challenging lives Transgender people lead, leaving the audience hysterical and in fits of laughter at times and on the brink of tears at other times.
The night concluded with EQUAL GROUND’s founder and renowned LGBTIQ rights activist Rosanna Flamer-Caldera thanking all of the organization’s allies and a curtain call where all the drama participants took a bow as they remembered the lives of Transgenders lost- affirming their lives as valuable and remaining steadfast in the belief that a positive difference can be made by being outspoken in the face of injustice, violence and the oppression of our Transgender brothers and sisters.