Sunday, August 8, 2010

Breaking grounds

Sexual minorities the world over continue to suffer various forms of prejudice and discrimination—at the hands of the state and the wider society—even in countries where they are legally recognized and their rights are guaranteed by law. In India, where these minorities are not even deemed to exist—at least legally—their harrowing plight remains unknown to the heterosexual majority—who, in any case, remain, by and large, not just indifferent but even relentlessly hostile to them.

Few members of India’s sexual minority communities—gays, lesbians, bisexuals and hijras or the ‘third gender’—dare, for fear of being scorned and much worse, to stand up and be publicly identified, leave alone struggle for their rights and the injustice and prejudices that they are haunted with throughout their lives. Gender-rights activists and some human rights groups have only recently begun turning their attention to these communities, and that too only very haltingly.

This book enjoys the rare distinction of being the first book ever to have been written by an Indian hijra. In her autobiography, Revathi, now a prominent hijra rights activist with a sexual minority NGO based in Bangalore, recounts the horrors of her tumultuous, terror-filled life. Born a male in a peasant family of modest means in a village in Tamil Nadu, Doraisamy (as he was named by his parents) discovered—as many gay men do—in early childhood itself that he was very different from the other boys of his village. At school, he shunned boys’ games, preferring to play with girls and dressing up like a woman in his mother’s clothes. As the years passed by, instead of his ‘feminine’ ways falling aside, as his parents had hoped, Doraisamy increasingly began to feel that he was actually a girl, although trapped, for no fault of his own, within a male body. And the more ‘feminine’ he dressed and behaved the more he was taunted by his peers at school and his parents and siblings at home. He had no one to share his pains with till at last he met a group of young gay men in a town near his village. For the first time, he discovered that he was not alone in this world, not the only boy who felt and behaved like a girl. From these men he discovered that it was indeed possible for a boy to become a girl, or, more precisely, a hijra—a eunuch.

Full review here Countercurrents

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