In a first, the Tamil Nadu government has published a glossary of terms on how to correctly address and describe members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the media, PTI reported on Tuesday. The Madras High Court had directed the government to come up with a list of terms to address the community in a dignified manner.

The additional advocate general, representing the state government, informed Justice N Anand Venkatesh that the glossary, notified in English and Tamil, was published in the gazette of the Social Welfare and Women Empowerment department on August 20.

Last year, Justice Venkatesh had made the suggestion for the glossary while hearing a plea filed by a lesbian couple seeking protection against harassment from the police and their families. The judge had noted that continuous efforts need to be made to tackle prejudices against the LGBTQIA+ community.

In a 107-page judgment, Justice Venkatesh described the personal journey he undertook to confront his own biases and lack of knowledge about gay relationships before passing his verdict.

The Supreme Court in 2018 scrapped a colonial-era law criminalising same-sex relations, but members of the LGBTQIA+ community continue to face widespread discrimination in the country.

On Tuesday, the additional advocate general furnished a copy of the glossary to Justice Venkatesh and mentioned that the terms included in it would have a statutory backing, PTI reported. He also said that it is mandatory to describe members of the LGBTQIA+ community by using the terms mentioned in the gazette.

“By doing so, an attempt is being made to address persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community with more dignity and respect,” the additional advocate general said.

The glossary includes terms such as Thirunangai (transgender woman), Thirunambi (transgender man), Paal Puthumaiyar (queer), Oodupal (intersex), among others, reported the Hindustan Times.

“It is made clear that all concerned, including the press, must take note of the notification published in the gazette on August 20 and address persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community by using only the notified terms wherever required,” Justice Venkatesh ordered, The Times of India reported.

Civil society members praised the Tamil Nadu government for publishing the glossary.

C Moulee, co-founder of the Queer Chennai Chronicles that fights for LGBTQIA+ rights, said he hopes that the glossary stays as a “living document”.

“Because the conversation around gender, sexuality and queerness doesn’t end here,” Moulee wrote in a tweet. “It keeps evolving. I see this as a step towards the right direction in Tamil Nadu. I am extremely greedy when it comes to my rights. Blame it on self-respect. I expect we keep moving the needle towards greater inclusion and social-justice.”

Other matters in court

Regarding the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, Justice Venkatesh was informed on Tuesday that the draft was ready but it was required to undergo scrutiny and compliance under the Central Act, 2019, PTI reported.

The draft rules also need the approval of the law department before it is sent to the chief minister. The state government requested the judge to give six months to finalise the rules and notify them.

The judge was also told that the secretary of the Transgender Welfare Board was instructed to prepare an exclusive policy for transgender persons. The secretary will have to prepare the Transgender Policy in consultation with officials of the State Planning Commission, among other stakeholders. A period of six months was sought to prepare this policy, PTI reported.

However, the judge raised concerns over a delay in drafting the policy.

“This process has been going on for more than a year and it is not known as to why six months’ time is sought,” the judge said. “If the government is really willing and serious about the upliftment of persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, some urgency must be shown to finalise the policy and the rules.”

The matter will be next heard on September 2.