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Third Gender: An Identity which Awaits Recognition and Acceptance!

Transgender is generally understood to be a broad category encompassing many gender identities and expressions

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recognize us as a part of the society and not a flaw of the society
Third gender, Wikimedia

Nov 17, 2016: Identity classification is of foremost in any country, be it a developing nation or a developed country, its acceptance of an individual categorically chooses two identities: male and female. As if they are only the sole granter of being an ideal citizen.

It is pretty strange that the third gender identity has existed for several decades but they still suffer from an identity crisis. Their existence in the society is still questionable and tough for the common people to accept. The word transgender gained widespread popularity in the 1990s as an umbrella term to describe people who cross over – or trans – traditional gender roles.

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Currently, transgender is generally understood to be a broad category encompassing many gender identities and expressions, including transsexual, genderqueer and cross-dresser, among many other. Though the term transgender has only been used in print for about 50 years, transgender-related practices have existed throughout history. For example, in the late 18th century, a male-born French diplomat named Chevalier d’Éon famously identified, dressed and passed as a woman for more than 30 years.

Most of them consider their birth as ‘the single biggest regret of their life’. Is it their fault or is the backwardness of the society that compel them to curse their birth. This is the biggest challenge that we are facing even today. The answer is none. We tend to follow the guidelines of our country and when a country itself doesn’t recognize a community how can they expect the layman to do so. When we boastfully talk of nationalism, secularism, equality do we even think of including this section of society within our debate? No, we never do that because it is always either a male or a female or else it has no identity.

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The atrocity on the third gender and the violence on them in the profession of prostitution is not hidden from us. They are treated as a flaw to a society and thus exploited to any extent. Let’s take the example of Alisha, a Pakistani transgender who was shot dead by her boyfriend. Her friends say she was neglected by doctors and medical professionals who taunted her, rather than treating her. One of her friend Farzana, heading an organisation devoted to fighting for the rights of transgender people in Pakistan’s conservative north-west told that “First they sent her to male ward, but other patient and family members ordered her out. She was shunted then to the female ward, but she wasn’t welcome there either”. As outcasts, Pakistan’s transgender people are often forced into begging, dancing and even prostitution to earn money.  They also live in fear of attacks, causing most to either change their names or use only one name to give them anonymity in the society.

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As soon as their gender identity begins to unfold, the future of khawaja saras becomes shaky. Their childhoods are plagued with memories of aggressive relatives determined to shake them out of what they call their “feminine phase”.  However there is a small relief for the transgender people of Pakistan as of now since at least 50 clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwa , declaring marriage between transgender persons lawful. A transgender person having “visible signs of being a male” may marry a woman or a transgender person with “visible signs of being a female” and vice versa, the religious decree said. However, the fatwa added that a person with “visible signs of both genders” cannot marry anyone, Dawn reported.

As of India, the Center introduced the Transgender Person’s (Protection Of Rights) Bill, 2016, aiming to do away with the discrimination against transpersons and giving them the right to “self-perceived” gender identity, as reported by PTI. The Bill also mentions equipping every establishment with a grievance redressal process, to ensure protection from harassment and discrimination. Punishments will include a jail term ranging from six months to two years. A penalty to be imposed on those persons found guilty of forcing a transgender to bonded

Punishments will include a jail term ranging from six months to two years. A penalty to be imposed on those persons found guilty of forcing a transgender to bonded labour or begging, according to the Bill. This is a very positive step taken by the government to shed the insecurity of being a transgender person. It now, up to the society as to how they co-operate to the proposed law.

by Saptaparni Goon of NewsGram. Twitter: @saptaparni_goon

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A Tale of Resilience and Courage : India’s First Transgender Judge Joyita Mondal

If we tell you about this Lok Adalat judge and her journey- tales of her struggle and battles against her family and the society at large, you would have nothing short of immense respect for her.

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Joyita Mondal
Joyita Mondal is the first transsgender judge in India. Facebook

West Bengal, October 18, 2017: “People almost treated me as an untouchable, and even passed abusive comments. But now people even come to me often requesting me to mediate in family disputes,” said an evidently ecstatic Joyita Mondal Mahi.

If we tell you about this Lok Adalat judge and her journey- tales of her struggle and battles against her family and the society at large, you would have nothing short of immense respect for her.

If we told you about her sexuality next, it may elevate your curiosity a little.

But what if we told you Joyita Mahi Mandal is India’s first transgender judge? Would it make a difference?

Should it make a difference?

From Joyonto to Joyita – Early Life

Joyita, who was born male and given the name Joyonto by her middle-class family, used to play games usually played by girls at the age of 3. Assuming that these interests would soon take the ‘regular route’ towards more boys-oriented activities, family members and parents ignored a young Joyonto’s behavior. However, the change never happened.

According to reports, Joyonto was once scolded for wearing make-up, a behavior unusual for boys to partake; subjected to bullying from classmates for feminine gesticulation, Joyonto was forced to leave school.

Lack of support from the family and school-mates alike forced Joyonto to escape from home in 2009, after which days turned to months, and then years, begging for a livelihood and sleeping on the roads.

As a transgender forced to beg on the streets to a social worker and finally assuming the chair as India’s first transgender judge at the Lok Adalat in Islampur in the North Dinajpur district of Bengal, Joyita’s journey has been extraordinary!

India’s first transgender judge
Joyita Mondal Mahi. Facebook

Challenging the Society

“Transgender” is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of identities, one of them identified as ‘hijras’ – people whose gender identities do not match with their biological sex.

Hijras, a term commonly implied for the transgender community in India, are often looked down upon by the Indian society. They are mocked for their mannerisms, are often made to feel ‘different’, and labeled as suitable only for begging or unskilled work.

Life was no different for Joyonto on the streets.

Now transitioned into Joyita, she demanded nothing less than what she deserved – respect and dignity that every human being deserves, despite their sexual orientation. A struggle that was not easy, her efforts eventually paid off and she crossed several milestones.

Joyita’s Efforts For A Larger Good

According to a report, Joyita established an NGO by the name of ‘Dinajpur Notun Alo Society’ to cater to the transgender community in North Dinajpur district. She had been working on a range of issues related to the transgender community since 2011

It was there that she got in touch with her ‘godfather’ Thanduk Sherpa, Islampur’s Deputy Collector and Magistrate.

Her godfather introduced Joyita to a former additional district judge Subrata Poley, who, impressed by her zeal and enthusiasm to fight against gender bias, recommended Joyita’s name for a judge in the Lok Adalat (civil court).

Finally, Joyita Mahi Mondal was appointed as India’s first transgender judge in Islampur Lok Adalat on July 8 this year

A Lok Adalat comprises of a senior judge, an advocate, and a social worker. Joyita, as a social worker, has assumed the position of a judge. And now enters the premises in a white ambassador- a vehicle categorized for government officials.

Has Joyita Been Subjected To Discrimination At The Adalat?

Joyita’s appointment as India’s first transgender judge was welcomed by friends and supporters from the transgender community who had flooded her Facebook account with congratulatory messages.

Sometimes I can feel negative vibes from those whose cases I adjudicate — strange gaze, or body language. However, I must add that none of them has insulted me. At times, a few are just surprised to see a transgender on the chair of judge.”
– Joyita Mondal, as told to Hindustan Times

However, according to her, the environment in the Adalat is very professional and she has never faced any discrimination. She also added that the fellow judges in the court have also been extremely cooperative and treat her with dignity.

However, India’s first transgender judge is yet to gain acceptance from her family and parents.

The Long Battle Ahead

After the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in 2014 recognizing the third gender under the law that is neither male nor female, attention was brought where it was due – on one of India’s most marginalized groups, transgenders. The ruling redefined their rights and the state’s responsibility to ensure their development and growth.

Things have certainly looked up thereafter for members of the Indian transgender community- whether it was about finding employment in public offices or seeking admissions in National Universities.

However, the battle has not been won completely.

There is limited data on the total estimated population of the transgender community in India, but anecdotal evidence amounts it between a half a million to two million people.

While members of the transgender community have legally gained recognition, the decision is yet to seep down to the root level as they continue to face criticism and alienation from the larger society.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 aims to ensure greater involvement of the trans people in the medical sector and welfare schemes and programmes, thus allowing for a more inclusive society. The Bill is currently pending approval.

In the words of India’s first transgender judge, ““More time is required for the society to change and we have to give it time.”

 

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Women-Only Murray Edwards College of Cambridge University to Accept Transgender Students

Formerly known as New Hall, Murray Edwards has, up till now, been a women-only Cambridge college

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Murray Edwards
The college wishes to support students who do not wish to define themselves as either male or female. PIxabay

Cambridge, October 5, 2017 : Murray Edwards College at the Cambridge University, in a first of its kind step, has announced to consider applications from all students who ‘identify’ as female. The college wishes to support students who do not wish to define themselves as either male or female.

According to the official statement released by the college, the move comes from an understanding that asserts that gender is not binary. “Many of us within the college…have concerns that narrow gender identities and the expectations associated with them are damaging both to individuals and to wider society,” it said.

Formerly known as New Hall, Murray Edwards has, up till now, been a women-only Cambridge college.

Transgender students applications are now being taken into account for the 2018 intake. Alternatively, the criteria would also apply to those who wish to transfer to the college during their degree.

Gender issues have been at the centre of popular debates in the recent past. Due to increased attention and awareness, these exists a greater understanding of the complexities of gender in the present societies. The move by the council of Murray Edwards comes as an attempt to open their doors to ‘all exceptional women’.

Dame Barbara Stocking, the president of the Murray Edwards College was quoted by The Guardian as saying, “In order that we remain true to our mission of being open to all exceptional young women we recognize that it is right for anyone who identifies as female, regardless of their born gender, to be able to apply to study with us.”

Admissions Policy

The institute previously followed the admissions policy applicable to Cambridge University’s two other women-only colleges- Newnham and Lucy Cavendish. According to prevailing policies, these institutes accept applicants who are legally recognized as women.

However, Murray Edwards will now be opening its doors to students who ‘identify’ as a woman at the time of applications and to those applicants who had been identified as male at birth but have ‘taken steps to live in the female gender’.

According to reports, Lucy Cavendish is also expected to espouse a similar change after a council meeting.

The move has garnered mixed responses from the larger community.

On one side, supporters of gender diversity and the transgender community have appreciated the college for their decision. A charity organization, Mermaids took to Twitter to thank the college authorities for “embracing all young women.”

However, like every coin has two sides, the college authorities have also received significant backlash ever since the formal announcement was made.

The decision has been termed ‘ridiculous’ and ‘illogical’ by several feminists. A former lecturer at Newnham told The Telegraph, “If Murray Edwards really don’t believe that gender is binary, then they really shouldn’t be a single sex college.”

Top 5 LGBTQ Friendly Colleges and Universities

  1. Princeton University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
  4. University of Pennsylvania
  5. University of California Los Angeles

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10 astonishing facts about ‘Hijras’ or the third gender of India to satisfy your curiosity

The name given to the ceremony when a new Eunuch is born, is Nirvana

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Fact about hijras
Creation of a new Eunuch. Wikimedia

New Delhi, September 25, 2017: Stories centered around hijras, kinners, or Eunuchs are always a matter of curiosity, since we hardly know anything about them except the superficial perception we have or had when we see them. We come across a number of myths, anecdotes about the third gender of India, but you’ll be startled to know certain facts about them that you were never aware of!

Let’s take a look at 10 astonishing facts about hijras, or the third gender of India:

  1. Their origin dates back to the ancient times: Kinners or Hijaras, as they are called, have existed since long. They have been mentioned in the Hindu epic Mahabharata and in Islam where they served in the harems of the Mughals.
Fact about hijras
Origin of hijras. Wikimedia

2. What did they do for living, in older times: Initially, they earned their bread by serving women of wealthy families. They would do their chores and even shopping for them. They also served as the guards of these women.

Fact about hijras
Hijras in older times. Wikimedia

3. Ever wondered how a new Eunuch is created?: The name given to the ceremony when a new Eunuch is born, is Nirvana. The ceremony includes the process of emasculation, in which the penis and testicles of the physiological male is removed. The process, as they say, turns the impotent male, into a potent Eunuch.

Fact about hijras
Creation of a new Eunuch or Hijra. Wikimedia

4. Their cremation is a very private affair: Their cremation is done in the regular way, however, involves very few close people. They are believed to carry out the rituals at night.

Fact about hijras
Cremation of hijras. Wikimedia

Also readIndia becoming more Transgender- Friendly: Read this report

5. They can foretell future: Eunuch gurus are believed to have been blessed with the quality of clairvoyance. They can perceive events in the future. It is also believed that they are even able to foresee their death.

Fact about hijras
Hijras can foretell future. Wikimedia

6. They pray for forgiveness when they happen to foresee their death: They consider their birth as a Eunuch, the result of their sins, that’s why they pray for forgiveness so they are not born as a Eunuch in their next birth.

Hijras
Death among Hijras. Wikimedia

7. Dying Eunuch is considered ‘God-like‘: Other kinners on hearing the news of an Eunuch being on deathbed, come from different places, seeking the blessings of the dying Eunuch.

Fact about hijras
Dying Eunuch is considered ‘God-like’. Wikimedia

8. Hijras worship the Ardhanarishvara form of Lord shiva: The famous Ardhanarishvara form of Shiva, in which half of the God is a woman indicates Shiva as united with his female creative power, shakti. Hijras worship lord Shiva, since they can closely identify themselves with the god.

Fact about hijras
Hijras worship lord Shiva. Wikimedia

9. The annual festival of hijras at Koovagam: Koovagam is a small village located 200 miles south of Madras. It is here that the annual festival of Eunuch takes place. On the occasion of Chitrai Purnima, Kinners experience the ceremony of marriage which is then, followed by widowhood.

Fact about hijras
Annual festival of hijras. Wikimedia

10. The legend of Bahuchara Mata: Bahuchara Mata, an incarnation of Maa Durga, according to the tales, was married to a man who would run into the woods and act like a woman. Angered with this, one day she cursed him to become an Eunuch. They pray Bahuchara Mata for forgiveness so they would be born with a clear gender in their next birth.

Fact about hijras
Hijras pray for forgiveness. Wikimedia

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha