The world has always been struggling to establish the balance between the roles of men and women. Sexuality in this balance has been the most shaking element which is beyond any logical understanding for a lot of intellectuals & experts.
There is a dominant one – The Man; there is a submissive one – The Woman; but where is then an amalgamation of the two – The Eunuch- a third gender?
Eunuch or ‘Hijra’ for an everyday individual is a parasite. For us who call themselves ‘normal’ are trained to stay away from the presence of these ‘different’ beings who are ‘cursed’. Young children are kept away from direct sight of these ‘so called humans’; else they will convert the young boys or girls into ‘Hijras’.
When these man with makeup on their faces, gajras in their hair and draped in sarees bang our windows of cars, we either become so cold and ignore their presence, or would roll the windows down to a minimum gap from where we can slip a note of Rs. 10/- to shun them off, or we would equally play along and make fun of them and speed our car away as soon as the red light turns green.
In our growing years and till date the thought is institutionalized in most of us that ‘hijras’ are non-existent beings. They are the ones who should be either killed, or kept in an asylum, or should be isolated from the society of the normative.
They are considered a threat to society. All sources of criminal acts are imposed on them. No everyday man is seen appreciating the presence of them. Who are these ‘hijras’? What or how do they become one? Why do they face such ridicule?
With awareness and a number of people from different communities raising voice about acceptance of them as third gender has led to a sensation among the masses where they now if not appreciate, at least don’t disregard the presence of these fellow human beings.
People are still not aware about the actual meanings of sexuality and gender, but now they have started to listen and learn. Does that mean that the physicality of a eunuch is accepted? The answer is sadly, still NO.
How do we perceive ‘a hijra’ or a group of ‘Hijras’ when spotted in our locality, within our everyday vicinities or when we become ‘victims’ of their games? We always are mocking and laughing at them. Why? Just because they are ‘queer’ – a little distinguished from a regular man or a woman. If not mock, we might be too scared to make an eye contact with them.
Do we ever pause to think why they are always collecting money either by begging, dancing at post wedding and baby shower functions, dance bar or being sex workers?
They are not accepted for the difference in their bodies but they are exploited for their bodies. Is it justified? Eunuch is a commonly used slang especially in case of incompetency of men in any field but particularly sexual matters.
“Tum aadmi nhi, ‘chhakey’ ho!”
Media representation has been equally sick and disgusting. Instead of showing them as empowered beings, they are subjected to disgust and jokes. They become a trope for adding light humor to the plot in some, or are again just marginalized characters as they are in real life.
As readers, reading this piece are you even aware of the meaning of ‘Eunuch’? People confuse them with being homosexuals, gays and what not. They are different, that’s why they are Different.
A Eunuch in a conventional sense is a castrated man at a young age so that he can undergo hormonal transformations as well to reach a more womanly stature. It is believed both as a tradition and a custom that the penis and testicles should be chopped in one go, so that the blood that would bleed will purify the man from his manliness to reach a higher and transformed state of being. Once the wounds begin to heal the hollow space becomes that like of a vagina in appearance.
When eunuchs work as sex workers at times they full fill demands of heterosexual men who are looking for a female in these ‘Hijras’ and only get to know the reality when they are in the act. It is certainly sad that they have to earn for their sustenance through sexual indulgences, but they are used for satisfying homosexual men as well as heterosexual men.
Laxminarayan Tripathi, a very popular name amongst the community. She is a eunuch who is not castrated but is a hijra. She has defied the basic rule of transformation of being castrated and yet continues to be one.
In his afterword in the autobiography of Laxminarayan Tripathi entitled as ‘Me Hijra, Me Laxmi’, R. Raj Rao has talked at length about a number of issues which haunt the lives of Hijras.
A Hijra is battling with inner self on one level and in order to accept that inner self, is also struggling with the outer self. It is a journey from letting go of masculinity to acceptance of femininity in one ’s self.
She has become one of the role models for the entire community for she had support of her family and gathered herself to become a voice for all her ‘chellas’ and others. She is an educated woman and that is all that makes the difference in her portrayal.
Education is essential in order for one to groom themselves to be sustainable and confident beings. The sex of the person doesn’t determine their mind. Hence if one has been equipped enough with essential education, they gain that power to stand with the society.
Unfortunately since these ‘Hijras’ are rejected and dejected, they fail to gain opportunity to learn and hence are forced into work spaces which are exploitative.
Today when activists demand rights and reservations for the third category; Are they wrong? They are not. As till date, women as second sex are struggling for equality fighting the patriarchy; these third gendered people also need primarily a stature and space in society to begin with. For them to reach 1/3rd equality status is still a long long journey.
Movies like Umrao Jaan & Jodha Akbar, showcased hijras as protectors or harmless beings left with beautiful princesses and courtesans. Their presence assured that women are safe and will not indulge in any sexual encounters. They also acted as confidants and were also handy for getting blamed when caught in an act.
Even ‘Traffic Signal’, ‘Heroine’, ‘Page 3’ etc have only marginalized hijras and haven’t showcased them as powerful characters making a difference in the society.
A number of Govinda movies in the 90’s have mocked at ‘cross dressing’ and has tried to confuse and play with the image of a eunuch in order to create humor.
They are either shown to be possessed beings and are tortured badly or they are mocked at for the audience to laugh.
Stories like ‘Lihaaf’ by Ismaat Chugtai, with a character of a Eunuch showcased hushed lesbian relationship which created a storm.
Today, instead of considering them as one who are possessed, marginalized or useless beings; we accept them as what they are, we will be able to grant them a livable stance in the society whose space we also share.
They might be a minority, but they are the ones who deserve to be respected and accepted in the society.
They might be Hijras, but that doesn’t mean they are not Humans.
Also published via Feminism in India – http://feminisminindia.com/2015/12/09/hijra_media_representation/