Some of the transgenders who have integrated themselves into the mainstream by becoming entrepreneurs say the seven-month lockdown had affected them both mentally and financially. With new lessons learnt, their businesses are finally picking up.
T. Jeyachitra, a caterer from Ulaganeri who used to earlier supply food for weddings, festivals, baby showers and to old-age homes, says she was running a successful business when the orders stopped all of a sudden. With 15 other transwomen in her house dependent on income through the catering business, Ms. Jeyachitra says the lockdown was nothing short of a nightmare.
We rear cattle, goat and chicken and raise paddy on a patch of land. We survived the six months on the in-house meat. We struggled and hoped for the lockdown to end, she says. After the State governments unlock, she has received two orders. We hope to keep it going, she says.
R. Jason Joshua who opened a soup stall in Palanganatham about two months ago says the months leading up to the unlock were traumatic for him and his wife. We left our houses one-and-a-half years ago, hoping to find a job and live off our own income. I did odd jobs in the beginning to survive but all sources of income stopped. My wife and I planned to open a tiffin centre but the lockdown spoilt our plan. We kept accumulating debts. This was a dark phase for both of us, he says.
Since September a small stream of customers is arriving every day, providing him regular income. We have enough money for our meals and to pay back our debts. We are hopeful of survival, he says.
Transwoman physiotherapist Solu says she is one of the handful from the transgender community who survived the lockdown without much of a hiccup. Since I work in a government school and get consolidated pay, I received half my salary from April to July and full salary from August onwards. Much of my income went to supporting housemates who had completely lost their income as many engaged either in begging or sex work. Their struggle became my own and was a difficult time for the community, she says.
She added that if more transgender people are recruited into both government services and the private sector, the community will not struggle as much. We need more job opportunities, she says.
Ms. Jeyachitra says a valuable lesson she learnt during the lockdown was to save specifically for medical expenses and set aside a portion of income for general expenses.