A press release that was issued by the District Social Welfare Department has attracted flak from several quarters after it was sent around with the word 'thirunangai' crossed out and the term moondram paalinathavar (third gender), a term which is largely rejected by the community.
According to the Hindu, which first broke the news, the correction as spotted on a Government Order press release which was approved by Thanjavur collector M. govinda Rao and released by the district Public Relations Office on November 22. The term Thirunangai/gal, which was originally printed, has been blocked out with whitener and the word 'moondram paalinathavar' was written by hand.
Traditionally, words like Aravani and moondram paalinathavar were used to refer to the transgender community and the words often carried a negative connotation. Many members of the community have admitted that they have been ridiculed using these words. In 2006, the then chief minister M. Karunanidhi introduced the word Thirunangai into State communication. Actvists have claimed that this simple move ensured that transgenders were shown dignity of addressal and the move had indeed removed a lot of the stigma attached to the other words used to refer to the community. The term moondram paalinathavar evokes bitterness from the community.
"The term moondram paalinathavar suggests that gender is ranked by some authority. It is the result of patriarchial thinking. Just like how they have classified some castes as higher and some lower, they are suggesting that gender also has ranking, with the male being called the first gender," says TV and radio personality, Rose.
According to Rose, words like thirunar, maatra paalinar, or paal puthumayinavar would be acceptable terms to refer to the community. The officials of the DSW department reprotedly said that they were directed through an official communique to denote transgenders as moondram paalinathavar in Tamil. It is unlcear when this directive was issued.