ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lack of Inclusive Language


My five years of doctoral research on the transgender community in Kerala made me comprehend the fact that the language I speak, the language I have internalised, and the language I cherished as mine—my mother tongue, Malayalam—lacks dignified terminology to address transgender people in the state. I am prompted then to reflect on and highlight the dearth of trans-inclusive language in the existing communication systems—government documents, media reports, social media interactions, school textbooks, etc. It is interesting to note that the transgender people in Kerala prefer terminology from the English language over their mother tongue or any other Indian language for affirming their identity in the public sphere.

Transgender people in Kerala began to come out and self-affirm their identity not later than 2015—the year in which the first International Conference on Gender Equality was organised by the Department of Social Justice, Government of Kerala. This event, supported by the United Nations Women and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), aimed at addressing the gender inequalities and the need to find ways in which women and the transgender community in the state could be strengthened. It became a platform for the release of the transgender policy of the state government. Yet, the crisis of trans exclusivity in the regional language of the state continues. Malayalam’s significance as a classical language dates back to many centuries, and it has undergone vast changes in terms of its present-day structure and function. Unlike the English language, Malayalam has a subject–object–verb pattern in its sentence construction and its pronominal system follows the “feminine” and “masculine.” This system has forced us to see gender-nonconforming people being largely excluded and othered in formal and informal communication practices involved in the Malayalam language. This linguistic exclusion of gender and sexual minorities in the state has had social sanctions, as the society perceived gender identity in a cis–heteronormative framework.

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Updated On : 9th Oct, 2021
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