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Dr. Aqsa Shaikh (She/Her) is an out and proud trans woman. She’s one of India’s First Transgender Doctor. She’s an Associate professor of Community Medicine, Nodal Officer for Covid Vaccination Centre, Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Jamia Hamdard, Delhi. Aqsa is an academician and researcher. She’s part of iHEAR initiative at Sangath India which undertakes research and project implementation for inclusion of Transgender and disability community in healthcare sector. She’s also part of Communi-T initiative which looks at the empowerment of Transgender persons. Founder Director of Human Solidarity Foundation, Aqsa is a vocal advocate for rights-based Gender Justice for Transgender persons and she speaks, writes and advocates for Trans Rights in India and Globally.
After creating a list of terms in collaboration with workshop participants that are used to describe queer and trans folks, Shaikh prompts them to list words used to describe gender-affirming care.
Understanding Gender & Talking About Trans Bodies by Shaikh (edited in the speaker’s words):
Try and understand what terms are used around us, whether these terms should be used, should not be used, or are derogatory.
Let me start with this: Last Saturday, we were at a workshop where a journalist friend told me that he's making a documentary on trans persons, and one of the characters in the documentary is a 'Shemale'. And I asked, 'What do you mean by Shemale?'
He said that that person describes themselves as a 'Shemale'. I told him that it’s considered to be a derogatory term, and shouldn’t be used. His justification was that since she called herself a 'Shemale' he will use it in the documentary.
What do you think? Should we write the words in quotes? I'm not giving you an answer, but think and reflect on it: Who decides what the right word is for a community?
For example, the word 'Harijan' — who coined this word? Mahatma Gandhi. Is Mahatma Gandhi from the Dalit community? He's not.
I move on to the term 'divyang' — another very famous person: Narendra Modi. Does Narendra Modi have a disability?