Posted by Vihaan
It is the story of several transgender persons, especially if they come from marginalised sections of the society. I left home to come to a new city due to the violence I faced in the family. Before shifting to a new city, the first advise I got from my queer friends was to carry identity cards and other documents. I carried them, and other educational documents which had my birth name/dead name.
In this new city, I found a home with my chosen mother, and later with my partner. They supported me emotionally and financially. I managed to get a job soon, with the education I received and I was happy that I would have my own income soon. I thought that finally, I would receive my salary at the end of the month, and I will be a financially independent person.
Just before I had shifted cities, I decided to shut my old bank account because it was a student account and my father was a signee. I was scared that if he had access to my spending details, my family would be able to trace my new location. I was now without a bank account.
Immediately after I found a job, I went to a bank to open a new account. The bank I went to, informed me that in order to open a new account they need a cheque from my mother or father. I told them that I will not be able to give the cheque. Then, they asked me to provide them with a cheque of a sibling, if possible. My reply remained the same. They further asked me many questions, as to why I was unable to get such a cheque. These questions made me uncomfortable and I felt intimidated. Finally, I told them that I don’t have a family. To which they replied that it wouldn’t be possible for me to open an account there.
I am a 23 year old with a higher education degree, a job and a sustainable salary. I had a valid identity card and I was ready to open a bank account with my birth/dead name. Many transgender persons do not have any of these.
I went to the next bank and I got the same response from them. Every day, before going to the office, I used to visit one bank. In every bank I enquired, the procedure to open an account was the same.
One bank was ready to open an account when I told them that my entire family was dead. They felt pity for me, and told me that they would make an exception and accept a cheque from a friend. But they said that they would send my ATM and other documents to the address on my Aadhar Card. The Aadhar Card still had the address of my village. What use would that be for me? One bank asked me to go back to my own state and open a bank account. Some of the banks asked me for my salary and then said that if it was a higher amount they would have considered making an exception, but not for the salary that I was getting. For a month, every bank I visited told me we can’t open your account.
I am a 23 year old with a higher education degree, a job and a sustainable salary. I had a valid identity card and I was ready to open a bank account with my birth/dead name. Many transgender persons do not have any of these. When they run away from their families they do not have identity cards. In all probability, they would not have the kind of education that I have had access to. If I had to go through so much, I can only imagine what some of them may have to go through.
This stress didn’t even account for the constant misgendering and humiliating questions that I had to face repeatedly from people to open the bank account. After some days, I was really angry, but I continued to go to every bank and had to literally beg them to help me open an account.
In between all of this, some of my friends started giving suggestions about how to open the account. I had a rent agreement on my name and tried to use that to open the account but that did not work either. Some people suggested me to change the Aadhaar address which I plan to do. But changing the address required some time. Some people suggested that I open a salary account. But I work in a small organisation and hence, the salary account was not possible. People of my organisation also tried their connections to open a bank account.
After lot of disappointment, pain and surviving, one and half months of visiting banks every other day, I was able to open a bank account through my organisations’ connections.
Not having a bank account meant a lot for me. I did not have any money to call my own despite being entitled to a salary. I was dependent on my partner for everyday finances. Asking money from my partner everyday in the morning before going outside home was painful for me. They were really supportive and understanding, and they never said no or questioned me regarding when or where I spent the money. It was one of the things that helped me to be calm and survive everyday. Not having a bank account was the question of my survival and existence. Without money, I was not able to access the resources. My survival was made possible only because of people around me.
This stress didn’t even account for the constant misgendering and humiliating questions that I had to face repeatedly from people to open the bank account
This experience taught me again how structural violence is systemic. I experienced discrimination due to my gender identity. On one hand, the government claims that it is helping the marginalised by making schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. But how is such a scheme going to be helpful for a person like me.
To open a zero balance account one must have a natal family, one can go back to. One requires parents who can provide them with a bank cheque. The regular accounts have a minimum balance of Rs.10,000. How many people would be able to afford that kind of money? The Aadhaar card has become mandatory to open bank accounts and I don’t want to get started on the problems with the Aadhaar card. Now the Home Minister had said that the NRC will be conducted in all states. We have already seen that thousands of transgender persons in Assam have been left out of the NRC.
Can you imagine how many lakhs will be left out from the entire country? Can you imagine the kind of problems it would create for those who are running away from home? Every time I think about our bleak future, I get worried. I was able to overcome this difficult phase of my life with support from friends and my chosen family. I managed to survive owing to my education. Several of us do not survive.
Vihaan is an Ambedkarite queer feminist trans man.
Featured Image Source: N World