Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Third Gender Dilemma....





Do you like my tree story? I adore trees. Recently, my friend Olga gave me a gorgeous rubber tree which she had been growing on her own balcony. She said this particular tree resembled a pair of Tango dancers... and how right she was! Now that the tango dancers belong to me, I try and nurture them with as much love as Olga did.

I shot the tree images on my recent jaunt. The Olive trees are a few hundred years old. I also photographed Mulberry and Pistachio trees in Athens, but in my hurry, was unable to locate them in the folder.

I have to get dressed very quickly to attend my daughter's super-glam event. It will be raining Moet, so who's complaining??????

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,This appeared in The Week.... days before Pinkie managed to get away from her tormentors. The picture of Pinkie in the papers this morning has her in a natty tee, a man's trousers..with a big smile on her face. One can only guess what a flood of unshed tears remain inside.....

Third Gender Dilemmas...

Yup. I have done it! Got in line and stripped for the cameras. Wait a minute, it’s not what you are thinking! Sorry. But I was referring to Nandan Nilekani’s Aadhar Card, which in a way, does strip you naked. That too, in public. I have to confess, the procedure was pretty harmless as such procedures go, but so damn intrusive, I just wondered what all that data was going to be used for!Here I was in a crowded hall, without a fig leaf to protect my modesty. There was hardly any aspect of my life that wasn’t out there. Two alarmingly young chaps were busy filling forms while all of us went through the finger printing, iris scanning processes. Apart from the indignity of it all, what surprised me was the section in which one had to tick or circle ( I forget), the sex thing – male or female. That’s when I noticed a third option – Transgender. That’s pretty neat! How progressive and forward thinking of Nandan to come up with this category. Then came the news that the Indira Gandhi Open University for distance learning programmes will include the word óther’ along with ‘male’’ and ‘’female’’ in application forms. This will kick in from July. If these are important markers, it is no small thanks to activists like Abheena Aher, who have been fighting for transgender recognition, claiming more than 40% of India’s transgenders are literate. This IGNOU initiative comes in the wake of requests from students who did not wish to reveal their gender. An additional problem arose with high drop- out rates for transgenders due to societal prejudices. Such is the stigma, that even those who have finished their education are often forced to identify themselves as ‘males’ while seeking employment. Activists like Santosh Joglekar are raising issues of adopting a non-discriminatory policy at universities across India, respecting the rights of those who do not wish to disclose their gender.

While going through these reports, one niggling thought kept swirling around inside my head. Would I employ a transgender ? Or would I find it ‘weird’? If one of my children’s friends were to cheerfully say, “Hi,Aunty...I am a Transgender.” What would my reaction be? Shock and awe? Non-chalance? An over eagerness to demonstrate my liberal position? Stupid questions. But I still need to ask a few. Like : which loo in a public area would a transgender be directed to – the one marked ‘M’or the one marked ‘F’? If the question of sharing rooms came up at a hostel, how would decisions be taken? These are practical issues demanding practical solutions. Just as the world is getting used to same sex marriages ( thank you, President Obama), along comes a brand new slot that has still to be understood before it can be factored in successfully in a social context.

Information available on transgenders in India is not at all comprehensive at the moment.Various websites offer case studies and testimonies, but frankly, even after going through several of them, I remain pretty clueless. Here are a few dumb questions for starters : How does one recognise a transgender? How are transgenders addressed in a formal situation – Mr. Ms , something else? It’s a tough world to negotiate, regardless of gender. It must be a thousand times tougher for those who, for now, fall into no-man’s land – neither here, nor there. I recall watching a classic ‘Priscilla,Queen of the Desert’ several years ago, and marvelling at the life of the protagonist. A lot of time has passed since then, but I still don’t know the difference between a cross-dresser, and a transgender. Where do our Hijras belong in a census survey? What happens to adopted children of ‘differently gendered’ individuals? Are they even permitted to adopt officially? Do their kids call them ‘mama’ or ‘papa’? I raise these questions deliberately, knowing they might raise hackles. But it’s better to be aware than make foolish, hurtful mistakes out of ignorance. While watching this season’s sleeper hit, the delicate and evocative “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ”, the one love story that touched me the most was between a gay British retired judge, and an Indian man he had spent a single night with decades ago, and lost track of. Unable to get his former lover’s memory out of his system, the judge comes back to Jaipur to trace his friend.Almost miraculously, he manages to locate him. The man’s wife greets the judge and says, “Ï know who you are,” before he can introduce himself.There is no trace of hostility in her voice. Just graceful, unconditional acceptance of her husband and his choices. It was by far, the most powerful segment of the film. But I still can’t say whether or not the lover was a transgender.

20 comments:

rishabhinteriors said...

very well written post......thanks for sharing mam :-)

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Pooja Rathore said...

Trees remind me of one of my tarot card(zen tarot - where a woman is hugging a tree tightly)its said thatits good to hug a tree its good feeling - i am yet to hug one...but i surely will.nice to know u adore trees.
your post on third gender - is really a matter of concern and need to be looked into and something done with regard to the questions raised(you have raised practical questions.)Good thought and good issue - a sensible and practical post!

Pallavi Patil said...

I had purchased the IGNOU prospectus few days back...and didnt fail to notice the "other" option in gender section...I was surprised and pleased..somewhere within .. felt that slowly but surely WE are changing...and surely it is a positive one...

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*Aham* said...

i feel no one can define the social gender but the person.

a lot of us are in the dark about what the transgender community is about... and what about their anatomy... we need to have interactions and orientation workshops where one could ask questions about gender and sexuality.

i for once have stated writing S/he/T in my communication.. even my business communication. It is important to put it OUT there. and when people ask "whats it"... i reply.. gender is beyond man and woman.

i feel the best to answer our queries would be Abheena herself. Have sent her your article.

whatShrutisays said...

Sweetheart you are getting confused between a "transgender" and a "bisexual". Get your facts straight :/

Tsomo85 said...

:-) First one by biological and 2nd one ofcourse from desire. :-) :-)

Caregiver CAISSG said...

Good thought provoking Questions. Nature provides humanity with several different options and we should respect all. Education and awareness are the first step towards that. Ignorance only creates more complexity.

The good news is India and the South Asian culture when it comes to the Third Gender fosters an environment of honesty. Whether equal laws for third gender exists or not can ONLY come after the truth is known. In western cultures, a "binary gender" viewpoint is followed both in society and laws, which creates an environment of secrecy and lies, not good for anyone. Incidentally, it was the British who introduced the "binary gender" viewpoint in India and other South Asian cultures and the current state of third genders. Before the British, life of third genders was very different in India and other South Asian cultures.

We need to respect nature, as is which means no lies and secrecy. Say the truth with respect and dignity.

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