“He probably used the word gay because he may not know what transgender is,” said Joe Paul, describing what her broker Jehangir told her on Monday. On being contacted, Jehangir said it was his mistake, he should have checked with the owner whether he would rent to a single person.
Paul, a 28-year-old freelance ad-film director from Kolkata, refuted the broker’s claim that she was being asked to move out because she was single; she was clear that she was being asked to leave on grounds of her sexuality.
“Last night, I tell you, I was really feeling suicidal,” she told TOI on Tuesday. She had faced harassment for the last three months at the flat where she was staying earlier and was looking forward to some peace of mind in her new home.
Report of the discrimination comes a year after the Supreme Court conferred third gender status on India’s transgender community. The Election Commission, too, has allowed transgenders to be separately identified in its rolls. But official recognition for the community, it seems, has in no way lessened discrimination.
“On several occasions, I asked Jehangir whether I would face any problem living here because of my gender. He assured me I could live in peace for the 11 months of my contract,” Paul said.
When she moved into the MHADA flat around June 12, it was not in a very good condition. “I spent a lot of time, energy and money on the plumbing and in painting the flat,” she said.
The contract for the house had been drawn up but not yet signed. “I would call up the broker every day asking about the paperwork. He assured it would be signed in a few days when the owner was in the area,” Paul recollected. Then came Monday’s bombshell.
Asked why he had shown Paul the flat in the first place, Jehangir said it was his fault, he had forgotten to check the matter with the owner. “I have promised to pay her back the money she spent on doing up the flat as well as the brokerage she paid. I have even promised to find her a new place,” he added.
After investing so much energy into doing up the flat, Paul is unwilling to leave. “I even called up the owner and assured him I was a decent person,” she added. Despite repeated attempts, TOI was unable to get through to flat owner Naseem.
“The incident again exposes the underbelly of apartheid that exists in the housing sector, not just against Muslims but against many vulnerable groups including sexual minorities. It also highlights the lack of legal architecture to deal with such cases, too,” said Delhi-based lawyer Shehzad Poonawalla, who has taken up some earlier cases of similar discrimination.
Harish Iyer, an equal rights activist and a prominent face of India’s LGBT movement, discrimination of this nature could only be fought at the perception level by spreading awareness about the community so that more heterosexuals joined the LGBT movement.