Trans people in India

hijra

Hijra. Courtesy of Anita Khemka at the photoink website

Face Book, as Colin has noted, has been a great resource for LGBT people in Africa – and just recently the Trustees of Changing Attitude have begun to realise its potential.

I’m grateful to Face Book for this link relating to Trans people, posted by my friend Cameron Partridge, of TransEpsicopal, about the work of the Church Missionary Society with the transgender community in the Pune area of India.

http://mission.typepad.com/church_mission_society_cm/

During the podcast you will hear Stephen Edison refer to India’s trans people as the lowest social group of all – partly, it seems, because many of them have to rely on the sex trade to make a living – and yet, paradoxically, who are in demand still for their spirituality, especially blessings at weddings and at funerals.

Interestingly he doesn’t use the Hindu term ‘Hijra’ and seems to imply, incorrectly I would guess, that many Indian males seek castration because of same-sex attraction (though it is believed that this does happen in some societies, Iran for example, where homosexuality is unacceptable).

Scholars and activists debate whether Hijras and other cross-gender phenomena in traditional societies are the equivalent of trans people in the West. I’m sure that they are, and that one reason why this is questioned is a lack of historical awareness of cross-gender variance in Western culture, with the consequence that ‘transsexualism’ can be dismissed by some as a 20th Century invention. Treatment options for trans people have certainly expanded in the last eighty years but ‘transitioning’ from one gender to another seems to have existed throughout human history.

Towards the end of the podcast Stephen refers specifically to ‘transsexual people’ as distinct from the broader term ‘transgender’ with which the item begins, which seems to continue the westernization of the client group.

As well as providing training so that clients can aspire to mainstream jobs he and his co-mission partner Lalita Edwards are trying to ‘change attitudes’ – YES, the phrase is actually used – so that employers will be willing to take them on. God bless the CMS!

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