Understanding transgender people

We appear to be at an impasse: a strongly vocal sector of the trans lobby insists that one is simply the gender one identifies as being, while an ever louder association of straight men or women insist both that birth sex is inextricably linked to gender and that , in effect, gender isn’t something we can choose solely on the basis of our private mental content. What we need to understand is that transgender people are just as human as straight men and women.

They are not a political stance as many politicians across may make it out to be, they are not an ideology, nor an agenda to fight upon. They are human beings across a spectrum of beliefs and experiences. They exist just as we do and their existence is not a question. Their identity is as real as a man’s or a woman’s. Transgender people are men or women who ‘transition’ in order to better reflect that internal sense of who they are.

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It’s not a medical transition. It’s about discovering more about oneself, accepting it in the way it is and living one’s life authentically.

The idea of human rights rests on the central premise that all humans are equal. It follows that all humans have dignity and all humans should be treated as equal. Anything that undermines that dignity is a violation, for it violates the principle of equality and paves the way for discrimination.

The human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) are coming into sharper focus around the world, with important advances in many countries in recent years, including the adoption of new legal protections.

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The preamble to the Indian Constitution mandates justice — social, economic, and political equality of status — for all. The right of equality before law and equal protection under the law is guaranteed in Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

India is a vast and diverse country and attitudes towards this subject and experiences of LGBTI individuals vary vastly. The disparity between urban and rural India, language, caste, class and gender add further complexities to understanding this topic more fully. But what we do know is that India’s LGBT citizens are not a “minuscule minority”. They have a voice that is strong and refuses to be silent any longer in their efforts to reclaim equality. Mughal Period

Hijras played a famous role in the royal courts of the Islamic world, particularly in the Ottoman empires and the Mughal rule in the Medieval India. They rose to wellknown positions as political advisors, administrators, generals as well as guardians of the harems. Hijras were consider clever, trustworthy and fiercely loyal and had free access to all spaces and sections of population, thereby playing a crucial role in the politics of empire building in the Mughal era. The Hijras also occupied high positions in the Islamic religious institutions, especially in guarding the holy places of Mecca and Medina the person of trust, they were able to influence state decisions and also received large amount of money to have been closest to kings and queens. Thus hijra frequently state the role of their status in that period.

British Period

In the beginning of the British period in Indian subcontinent hijra used to accept protections and benefits by some Indian states through entry into the hijra community. Furthermore, the benefits incorporated the provision of land, rights of food and smaller amount of money from agricultural households in exact area which were ultimately removed through British legislation as because the land was not inherited through blood relations.


Through the onset of colonial rule from the 18th century onwards, the situation changed drastically. Accounts of early European travelers showed that they were repulsed by the sight of Hijras and could not comprehend why they were given so much respect in the royal courts and other institutions. In the second half of the 19th century, the British colonial administration vigorously sought to criminalize the hijra community and to deny them the civil rights. Hijras were considered to be separate caste or tribe in different parts of India by the colonial administration. The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, this included all hijra who were concerned in kidnapping and castrating children and dressed like women to dance in public places. The punishment for such activities was up to two years imprisonment and a fine or both. This pre-partition history influences the vulnerable circumstances of hijra in this contemporary world.

The ancient Indian text Kamasutra written by vatsyayana dedicates a complete chapter on erotic homosexual behaviour. Historical literary evidence indicates homosexuality has been prevalent across the Indian subcontinent throughout the history, and that homosexuals were not necessarily considered inferior in any way until about 18th century during British colonial rule.

The first Mughal emperor, Babur, in his autobiography Baburnama, describes his infatuation with a teenage boy.

The biography of sarmad kashani published by caretakers of his shrine states that he had fallen for a Hindu boy named Abhai Chand whose father eventually relented and allowed them to be together.

The British raj criminalized sexual activities ” against the order of nature”, including homosexual sexual activities, under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which entered into force in 1861. It was similarly instituted throughout most of the British Empire due to the christain religious beliefs of the british colonial governments. The Goa Inquistion prosecuted the capital crime of sodomy in Portuguese India.

“Transgender” is an umbrella term that describes people whose gender identity or expression does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender person may identify as a woman despite having been born with male genitalia. A person’s internal sense of being the male, female or something else is their gender identity. For cisgender, or non- transgender, their gender identity matches their sex at birth. For transgender people, the two do not match. Transgender people are individuals of any age or sex whose appearance, personal characteristics, or behaviours differ from stereotypes about how men and women are ‘supposed’ to be. In its broadest sense, transgender encompasses anyone whose identity or behaviour falls outside of stereotypical gender norms. That includes people who do not self-identify as transgender, but who are perceived as such by others and thus are subject to the same social oppressions and physical violence as those who actually identify with any of these categories. Other current synonyms for transgender include ‘gender variant’, ‘gender different’, and ‘gender non-conforming’.

In india there are a host of socio- cultural groups of transgender people like hijras/kinnars, and other transgender identities like- shiv-shaktis, jogtas, jogappas, aradhis, sakhi etc . However, these socio-cultural groups are not the only transgender people, but there may be those who do not belong to any of the groups but are transgender persons individually.

Sex and gender are two different concepts. A person’s sex refers to his or her biological status as either male or female. The determination of a person’s sex depends primarily on various physical characteristics, including chromosomes, reproductive anatomy and sex hormones, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

Gender, on the other hand, is a societal construct that deals with the expected behaviors, roles and activities typically associated with the different sexes, the APA said. Gender roles, which vary across cultures, influence how people act and feel about themselves.

Sexual orientation is different from gender identity. Sexual orientation is a person’s physical, emotional or romantic attraction to another person, while gender identity is about one’s own sense of self, according to GLAAD, an anti-discrimination organization. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual. For example, a person born with male genitalia may transition to being female but may be attracted to females. In this case, the person may identify as lesbian even though she was born with male genitalia.

When Lord Rama was exiled from Ayodhya and his entire kingdom began to follow him into the forest, he told his disciples: “Men and women, please wipe your tears and go away.”

So they left. Still, a group of people stayed behind, at the edge of the forest, because they were neither men nor women. They were hijras, which in Urdu means something like eunuchs. Those people waited in the woods for 14 years until Lord Rama returned, which won them a special place in Hindu mythology. There’s a bit of a mystery about the story’s origin scholars say it’s not in the early versions of ancient Hindu texts but in the past century this folk tale about the hijras’ loyalty has become an important piece of their identity. Hijras figure prominently in India’s Muslim history as well, serving as the sexless watchdogs of Mughal harems.

Today hijras, who include transgender and intersex people, are hard to miss. Dressed in glittering saris, their faces heavily coated in cheap makeup, they sashay through crowded intersections knocking on car windows with the edge of a coin and offering blessings. They dance at temples. They crash fancy weddings and birth ceremonies, singing bawdy songs and leaving with fistfuls of rupees.

Many Indians believe hijras have the power to bless or curse, and hijras trade off this uneasy ambivalence.

Many are engaged in sex work, locked into service for a guru who takes most of their earnings.

Radhika wouldn’t utter her guru’s name. She seemed scared to talk about her. Within the hijra world, gurus fulfill the hybrid role of den mother, godfather, spiritual leader and pimp. The gurus are hijras as well, usually in their 40s or 50s.

There is a bit of a pyramid sales scheme within the hijra community. Younger “chelas,” or disciples, are managed by midranking hijras who report up to gurus, who are often steered by their own elder mentors. For every hijra, the idea is to get as many chelas working for you as possible. The money flows up; the protection from abusive customers or police officers flows down.

The main problems that are being faced by the transgender community are of discrimination, unemployment, lack of educational facilities, homelessness, lack of medical facilities: like HIV care and hygiene, depression, hormone pill abuse, tobacco and alcohol abuse, penectomy, and problems related to marriage and adoption.In 1994, transgender persons got the voting right but the task of issuing them voter identity cards got caught up in the male or female question. Several of them were denied cards with sexual category of their choice.The other fields where this community feels neglected are inheritance of property or adoption of a child. They are often pushed to the periphery as a social outcaste and many may end up begging and dancing. This is by all means human trafficking. Sometimes running out of all options to feed themselves, they even engage themselves as sex workers for survival.Transgenders have very limited employment opportunities. Transgenders have no access to bathrooms/toilets and public spaces. The lack of access to bathrooms and public spaces access is illustrative of discrimination faced by transgenders in availing each facilities and amenities. They face similar problems in prisons, hospitals and schools.Most families do not accept if their male child starts behaving in ways that are considered feminine or inappropriate to the expected gender role. Consequently, family members may threaten, scold or even assault their son/sibling from behaving or dressing-up like a girl or woman. Some parents may outright disown and evict their own child for crossing the prescribed gender norms of the society and for not fulfilling the roles expected from a male child. Parents may provide several reasons for doing so: bringing disgrace and shame to the family; diminished chances of their child getting married to a woman in the future and thus end of their generation (if they have only one male child); and perceived inability on the part of their child to take care of the family. Thus, later transgender women may find it difficult even to claim their share of the property or inherit what would be lawfully theirs. Sometimes, the child or teenager may decide to run away from the family not able to tolerate the discrimination or not wanting to bring shame to one’s family. Some of them may eventually find their way to Hijra communities. This means many Hijras are not educated or uneducated and consequently find it difficult to get jobs. Moreover, it is hard to find people who employ Hijras/TG people. Some members of the society ridicule gender-variant people for being ‘different’ and they may even be hostile. Even from police, they face physical and verbal abuse, forced sex, extortion of money and materials; and arrests on false allegations. Absence of protection from police means ruffians find Hijras/TG people as easy targets for extorting money and as sexual objects. A 2007 study documented that in the past one year, the percentage of those MSM and Hijras who reported: forced sex is 46%; physical abuse is 44%; verbal abuse is 56%; blackmail for money is 31%; and threat to life is 24%.Hijras face discrimination even in the healthcare settings. Types of discrimination reported by  Hijras/TG communities in the healthcare settings include: deliberate use of male pronouns in addressing Hijras; registering them as ‘males’ and admitting them in male wards; humiliation faced in having to stand in the male queue; verbal harassment by the hospital staff and copatients; and lack of healthcare providers who are sensitive to and trained on providing treatment/care to transgender people and even denial of medical services. Discrimination could be due to transgender status, sex work status or HIV status or a combination of these.Social welfare departments provide a variety of social welfare schemes for socially and economically disadvantaged groups. However, so far, no specific schemes are available for Hijras except some rare cases of providing land for Aravanis in Tamil Nadu. Recently, the state government of Andhra Pradesh has ordered the Minority Welfare Department to consider ‘Hijras’ as a minority and develop welfare schemes for them. Stringent and cumbersome procedures and requirement of address proof, identity proof, and income certificate hinders even the deserving people from making use of available schemes. In addition, most Hijras/TG communities do not know much about social welfare schemes available for them. Only the Department of Social Welfare in the state of Tamil Nadu has recently established ‘Aravanigal/Transgender Women Welfare Board’ to address the social welfare issues of Aravanis/Hijras. No other state has replicated this initiative so far.

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Understanding transgender people. (2019, Dec 11). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/understanding-transgender-people-essay

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