Gender for most people ends at man or woman. Visualising gender as a rainbow is helpful in understanding that there is no dualistic black or white but rather a wide spectrum within gender identity. Transgender people are individuals that neither identify as men or women. Their gender identity has been a target for innumerable hate crimes, and economic, legal and social disadvantages. Due to section 377 the LGBTQ community until 2018 were also considered as criminals due to their gender and sexual orientation. The government of India in 2016 passed the Right for Transgender Persons Bill which took a step towards protecting the transgender community in India, and 2014 was marked by the legalisation of the existence of the Third Gender. Though there is a long way to go in truly including transgender people into society as equal citizens, what remains a continual paradox is the mentality of Indians towards transgenders, also called Hijras.
In ancient India, Hijras were well respected, considered loyal and held important roles in Hindu religious texts and myths. In the Mughal era, they held important religious authority, court positions and administrative roles. They were regarded as holy due to the belief that they had the ability to bless and bring good luck to people. This brings to question the treatment of transgenders in modern India. Hints of ancient India still linger when even today, hijras are asked to come during weddings or child births, to bestow their blessings, but the paradox lies in the fact that they are the same people that are deeply ostracised, marginalised, persecuted and abused in 21st century India.
The paradox was birthed during the British colonization of India. Britishers enforced Western notions of what was moral and clean onto Indians. The implementation of section 377 in 1858, led to the long history of penalisation and violence towards, hijras and LGBTQIA+ community. This practise of hating and marginalising non cisgender bodies took hold in Indian society, and thus hijras were forced out of their revered positions and condemned as social outcasts. This social exile has led to loss of employment, education, health care, stigma and plummeted them into homelessness, abuse, persecution and discrimination in every area of their life.
It is vital to question if our independence has benefitted all areas of society or not? Why are we under the shadow of colonisation and continuing practices that were never truly ours? As educated, aware and modern-day Indians, doesn’t it become our very duty to rewrite our own history, present and future, especially for transgenders that have the right to live in India as any other Indian citizen that inhabits this land? The only humane answer can be, yes.