A Tamil movie I watched earlier today, reminded me of an article I read in this amazing book, AIDS Sutra, a few years ago.
The Half-Woman God by Salman Rushdie which touches on the issue of transgender in India. The book was published in 2008 and features 16 prominent Indian authors from the likes of Kiran Desai, Vikram Setch, Shobhaa De and a few others.
This particular movie portrayed a transgender who was thrown out of her home as a child for portraying feminine qualities, something which was a taboo for her family. Somewhere along the movie once she had grown up and raised a family of her own, she gave a short speech at a school function, in which she requested families who had such children to not treat them like an outcast but shower them with love and allow them to grow and develop in their own way.
We are quite unfortunate that we live in a society which not only shuns them but treats them like dirt. In a country like India for instance where they are popularly known as “Hijras”.
How did this community go from revered to living on the fringes of society? That is the plight of India’s estimated 5 million “Hijras”. The term applies to a diverse group who identify as neither male nor female. They can range from natural intersex to male cross dresser. Respected by the Mughals, but considered criminals by British colonizers, today many live as sex workers and beggars.
Going back to the article from the book, Salman Rushdie speaks to a hijra named Laxmi. She talks about how they are often abused by policeman and even by doctors at the hospital. Not being able to find jobs, most Hijras then resort to being a sex worker and highly exposed to AIDS.
What honestly sickens me is the attitude people have towards them. I’ve seen it right here in Malaysia. A former colleague of mine openly showed his disgust at them and was proud of it.
What’s worse is they are often rejected by religious people, treated as a scum of society. I know some spiritual organizations that refuse such people and treat them as if they are diseased. Not just the transgender but the LGBT community in general.
They are human beings, just like us and deserve all freedom and rights. I respect Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s statement on this matter, when asked about LGBT’s.
“Every individual has both male and female in them. Sometimes one dominates, sometimes other; it is all fluid.”
I just hope that people’s perception change and they start to treat everyone equally with love and respect. Do watch this news discussion piece by Al-Jazeera on transgender in India. The thing I love about Al-Jazeera is they produce some really good shows and documentaries.
Featured Image Source: Peter Caton for India HIV/AIDS Alliance