Monday, December 18, 2006

What About Them?

The story of Santhi Sounderrajan raise and fall brings to fore rather uncomfortable questions about them which have so far been brushed aside.
Santhi Sounderrajan
Santhi Sounderrajan raise from obscurity to an iconic status in Tamil Nadu in the last one week was truly awe inspiring and showed the world as to what grit and determination can do. Santhi grew up with abject poverty, yet rose from that to compete in several International Athletic events. Last week, Santhi won a silver medal for India in the women's 800 meters, which brought overnight fame and monies (INR 1.5 million) badly needed by the family. Yet, it also brought some scrutiny in the form of a gender test, which Santhi failed and led to the withdrawal of the medal.

As a society, third gender has been treated shabbily by everyone, including the close families and stuff. Shunned by the society and their own families, they are driven to prostitution, poverty and drugs. Indian movies generally portray them in a poor light as a group that must be kept away. I don't to understand all the issues involved, but I do feel they should be given assistance and not be driven away. Can the latest medical advancement/s help?

In this front, I applaud Tamil Nadu Government for going ahead with the already scheduled award ceremony. Mr. Karunanidhi could have easily hidden behind some procedural trivialities and and canceled award, but by not doing so, he sent out a positive message to the whole group.

I hope this Santhi episode ignites a public discussion and brings forth some positive changes for them.


  1. Ram,
    There is nothing called third gender.
    There are only men or women. The third gender referred to in India(eunuch, ali) are what transgenders are in the US. They are basically men or women, who act and behave like the opposite gender. They may at times have sex change operation, partially or fully.
    what Karunanidhi does is actually an injustice to society. Santhi had been rejected by railways stating that she is a man. inspite of that he has gone ahead and competed in the international events. (usually gender test is not done in events unless complained). By winning some of the events he has cheated the other women of their rewards for their effort, as he had the physical advantage of being a man.
    Charlotte, NC

  2. I am still not able to figure out how the Indian sports committee could have ignored or been unaware of this issue?

    I read Shanthi's father's interview to Vikatan last week and he had said that his first 4 are daughters and then a son.

    Off course, I am happy that the gov't has gone ahead and given the family financial aid.


  3. Bravo.
    No body can deny that Shanthi is GOD's child like everyone else.
    You are correct about the sufferings of the'third' gender. You missed the 4th gender,the a-holes and b-poles whose business is to justify their ignorant interpretations as GOD's word to discriminate.
    May be the Minister of Stamps
    will publish Shanthi 1 cent stamp
    to honour the 'third' gender.
    After all, India has published
    half-naked Dravidian Racist before.

  4. Patrick
    I see your point.. but the fact is, 'transgender' are shunned by the society and treated cruelly.
    Yes, Santhi issue is murky particularly when Santhi had been denied employment on the same grounds.
    But, my question / focus of the post is around 'shouldn't the society treat 'them' fairly as well?' 2) Going with the Railways / Santhi episode, should the society ignore 'transGenders'?

    Yes.. how Santhi was included in the contingent in light of prior knowledge of the gender issue is mind boggling..

    The fundamental problem is society hasn't found a solution on how to handle the thirdgender / transgender group..

    Yes.. 'they' are also God's children like rest of us..


    "THEY" are discriminated even in the developed countries :-(

  6. Ram,
    The railways did not ignore because he is a transgender.. but they ignored him because he has won all the medals in the female category.
    1 in 1000 people have XXY (XX- female) (XY- male). XXY is male.
    ask this question yourself. imagine your child quit school, and slogged it out for 4 years day and night to compete in some Karate competition for under 10 yr olds. and a 20 year old is pitted against him.. because he feels he is a kid at heart!! :-)

  7. Failing the gender test does not make her a man. And she's most likely intersex rather than transgender. For more information, see the

  8. Prabhu
    Thanks for the link.. It doesn't matter where it happens.. still wrong.. I agree with you, this problem is worldwide.. but the degree varies..

    I don't know the details.. regardless, Santhi was denied because Railways determined Santhi not to be female.. that is discrimination..

    Thanks for Info..

  9. this is simple. Santhi is physically female but has male characteristics usually measured thru hormonal criteria (has more testosterone than is permissible for a female). So even though she is physically female, she has the strength of male and hence is deemed unfair to compete in female category. Nothing wrong in accepting it and moving forward. MK does all this drama so ppl can praise him, may be in TN but the rest of the world will laugh at our inability to accept reality...