Transgender or the third-gender are normal human beings (just like you and me!) who have a mismatch between their gender-identity (one’s personal sense of being a man or woman) and assigned gender. They are independent of sexual orientation and undergo a period of sexual development. It is neither a disease that can be cured nor a ‘bad-addiction’, as a very famous yoga Guru claims it to be. Being a transgender is as natural as the process of reproduction and it is reasonable to not fit in a particular body. They are bullied and harassed since their childhood and often, due to social stigma and in the fear of not being accepted or understood, they fail to come out and express themselves to their families and friends.
Going back to our roots, something that we Indians love to do, there are various instances of the presence of transgender in our history and I would like to point some out to save your time of going through the Ramayana or Mahabharata all over again.
Lord Shiva: In one of the many forms of Lord Shiva, he is seen to merge with Parvati and thus, together forming Ardhanari, that is, half-Shiva and half-Parvati. So you are basically worshipping a God that once chose to be a half-man and half-woman. Why despise a commoner who tries the same?
Ramayana: While leaving for his fourteen years exile, many devotees from Ayodhya followed Ram to the forest. Noticing this Ram asked “all men and women” of Ayodhya to return to their homes and to not mourn. After fourteen years, while returning to Ayodhya, Ram found a group of Hijras waiting where Ram last left them. On being asked the reason, they said that Ram had asked only the men and women to leave. They stayed back for they were neither. Impressed by their devotion, Ram blesses them with the power to confer blessings on people during auspicious occasions such as child-birth and marriages. Thus, the trend of Hijras dancing and singing during Indian weddings and on the event of childbirth continues.
Mahabharata: Before the Kurukshetrawas, Abhiravan offered his life to Goddesses Kali for the victory of the Pandavas. However, his last wish before dying was to get married. Nobody was ready to marry a man who was supposed to die the very next day. So Arjun, one of the Pandavas, dressed as a woman, married Abhiravan. And you still choose to scold your four-year old son who plays dress-up for fun.
It is also a well known fact that Hijras practice Islam just like any other Muslim.
Similarly, during the times of Kings and Queens, Hijras used to work for the queens (as also seen in the movie Jodha Akbaar). The very famous Kamasutra mentions about transgender as well.
India is one of the very few countries that have recognized Hijras or transgender as the third gender. Unlike earlier, they are now counted under the “third sex” and not the male column during census and they are also allotted identity cards. The Hijras of India , through their various protests , have finally earned their right to vote. This has lead to the emergence of Hijras in different fields not just as individuals but as a whole community.
Here’s a list of the first transgender of India in the different fields of life:
- Kalki Subhramaniam – This first transgender entrepreneur is also the founder of Sahodaari Foundation for transgender community.
- Padmini Prakash – besides being the first transgender news anchor, Padmini is also a vocal artist, a trained Kathak dancer and Miss Transgender of India!
- Madhu Bai Kinnar – This first transgender Mayor of India (first citizen of Raigarh) was initially disowned by her parents. After having to leave her house, she earned her living by singing and dancing on trains.
- Bharathi – once an untouchable, Bharathi now blesses people on their weddings for she is the first transgender Pastor!
- Manabi Bandhyopadhyay – The first principle at a university in Bengal and also the author of best-selling book “Endless Bondage about Hijras”.
- K. Prithika Yashini – The first transgender police officer of Tamil Nadu, now she got some power!
The transgendered have come a long way. Sure, they have had a tough time dealing with the orthodox Indian Society and its politicians, but now that they have started to rise, there’s no looking back. There’re stronger than ever (referring to “6 Pack”, the first Indian transgender music band) and it is high time we should start accepting them as one of us.