Members of India’s often repressed LGBT community are celebrating the opening of the country’s first-ever transgender farm, media reports noted Wednesday.
Reuters reported the case of the state-owned Transgenders’ Milk Producers’ Cooperative Society in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which opened its doors last month for 30 transgender people to live in safety with their own home and shared business venture.
“I begged on the trains for five years,” one of the new farmers, named Bhoomika, told the agency by phone. “Life was difficult, everyone looked at us in a strange way … We are still treated the same outside the dairy farm but inside I am able to lead a normal life, a life of dignity. I feel I belong.”
“This business has given us dignity,” Bhoomika added. “We have been trusted with this work and we don’t want to break that.
The brainchild of the idea to create the 1.5-acre farm is Sandeep Nanduri, who lobbied numerous local authorities to fund the project that would provide the individuals with an income and safety from many of the threats they face in the inside world.
Although homosexuality is legal in India and the Supreme Court provided transgenders with “third people” recognition in 2014, life remains challenging for the majority of people who belong to the country’s LGBT community. Many face harsh discrimination and are ostracized by their families, often ending up turning to begging or prostitution to survive.
Things are slowly improving. A growing number of companies are now willing to hire LGBT and transgender people and local governments have started providing grants to help them live a more equitable life.
Naduri, the administrative head of Thoothukudi district, is one of the many more progressively-minded officials making this change a reality. The farm is now selling some 180 liters of milk a day and has plans to expand in the near future.
“They are doing well compared to other dairies as they work as a community … they are attached emotionally and live together as a family,” said Santha Kumar, the manager of Aavin’s procurement department. “The fat content is 4.1%, better than the average fat content of 3.9% fat that we get, which means the cattle is being fed well and the quality of milk is good.”