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So you want to be a girl?

I grew up in house full of men. My mom was the only women there. She would lament "I wish I had had a girl! So that I wouldn't feel so lonely.Someone who would share my burden" It was true, no one lifted a finger, she would have to do everything at home. 
"Mom, where's my shirt? Mom where's my breakfast? Mom where's the chai?"
She would say she would have liked to be like a Hindu goddess with a thousand arms. So tht she could do all the thousand things at the same time. I would have liked to help my mom but I would not be allowed. 
"Go away from the kitchen, you're a boy"
But so many times, I wanted to tell her, "Mom, I want to help you, please let me" But either I did not have the guts or the understanding as to why I felt like this.
And then one day, when everybody was away and I was alone at home. I dressed up in my mom's silk saree, put kajal in my eyes, put on a bindi, wore her glass bangles, her silver payals. I sat down on the bed and put on the TV, watched the TV serials that I would die to watch, the cookery programs, make-up help, fashion. I read her Woman's era and Femina. I felt like a woman, like somone I would have liked to be. This great day would become my routine for a few years. I would wait for days when the whole family went out and I would feign some imaginery fatigue or stomach ache. Now I was dressing three or four times a week. I became an expert on draping the saree. The gestures that I had studied watching my mother and other women became second nature. My hands automatically pulled the saree edge over my fake breasts, I would use the pullu to cover my shoulders, I would hold up my pleats when I went into the bathroom. I would tuck the pullu around me whn I made tea.
Then one day the inevitable happened. I fell asleep dressed in my finery and woke up to loud laughter. I opened my eyes and before me stood the whole family. 
I frooze! 
My brothers were laughing but were visibly embrassed, angry, disgusted. My father walked away mumuring something. My mother stood there, a smile on her face. She said " My god! You really know how to wear a saree. "
They all left me there on the bed. I did not know what I should do. Should I run to the bathroom and change or should I be brave.
My mom came back again into the room. She studid me and then sat down next to me.
"Why are you wearing my sarees?"
I thought for a while and then looked up at her and said " I want to be a girl!"
She got up. She said you think being a girl is dressing up in a saree?. I didn't say anything.
"So, you want to be a girl?"
She got up and opened the cupboard and took out a cotten sari and threw it next to me. "You can't wear a silk saree and do housework, my dear". She left the room. I sat there my heart racing, what do I do? 
She came back a few minutes later "What are you doing? Change your saree and come into the kitchen, there is work to do".
I took the cue, I quickly took off the expensive silk saree and put on the 'house saree', an orange cotten one. I meekly walked into the kitchen.
My mom looked at me and laughed. Lets see if you can be a girl she said.

She handed me a tray with a teapot and cups. "Take this and serve them their tea!"
This was my mother's idea of womanhood.

I took the tray with shivering hands and went out into the sitting room. They sat there watching TV. They looked up at me, their mouths agape.
"Don't be shocked! 'She' wants to be a girl so she is going to be one, lets see how long 'her' desire lasts."
There was a howling round of laughter and sarcastic jokes.
But my mother was soon to be surprised by my resolve to be a girl.
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In search of dignity


The portrayal of transgenders on the Tamil screen has been insensitive, but this is set to change, says Lakshmy Venkiteswaran.

Megaserials such as Kolangal and Arase on Sun TV have characters that depict transgenders in powerful roles
The society in which we live treats us with nothing but contempt and ridicule," says Rose, a transgender in Chennai who is famous for her talk-show, Ippadikku Rose on Vijay TV. See IBN-CNN video report on Rose below.
This is evident from the insensitive portrayal of transgenders in Tamil films, which more often than not associate aravanis with sexual innuendos and double entendres. Films such as Jayam (2003), Thullatha Manamum Thullum (1999), Eeraman Rojave (1983) and Thiruda Thirudi (2003) have used aravanis for comic relief - making fun of their mannerisms and dress.
This is a far cry from Hilary Swank's Oscar winning performance as the protagonist in Boys Don't Cry, which is based on the life of Brandon Teena, a young transman who was raped and murdered in 1993 by his male friends after they found out about his sexuality.
"Indian comedians lack the creativity needed to come up with fresh comedy. As human beings, we lack empathy and that reflects in the comedy tracks featuring transgenders," says Rose.
However, this is set to change. Her talk show has not only received rave reviews but also changed the stereotypical image of a transgender.
"The public is, for the first time, seeing a transgender being articulate, sociable, intelligent and beautiful. My show has paved the way for transgenders to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve."
Rose, who plans to make a film that portrays transgenders in a different light, says that lack of acceptance by the society is not limited to India. "People should realise that we are the way we are not to make anyone laugh," she says.
Megaserials such as Kolangal and Arase on Sun TV have characters that depict transgenders in powerful roles. In Arase, Bubloo plays the transgender Ganga who is pursued by police.
In one episode, she is arrested and thrown into cell full of males where she is harassed.
7 "I love her dialogue in this episode. It's a reflection of the problems that we face everyday.
Access to public toilets, for instance, is a serious problem. The government needs to formulate special plans to help us cope with society," says June, a transgender in Chennai.
In the Tamil film Appu (2000), the villain is a transgender, Maharani, a power-hungry pimp who eliminates anyone she perceives as a threat.
"Ganga and Maharani are negative characters but you cannot generalise this," adds June.
"There are good and bad people everywhere and transgenders are no different from the rest!" Navarasa, directed by Santosh Sivan, is one of the few films that show the life of aravanis.
Told through the eyes of young Swetha, who is shocked been discovering that her beloved uncle is a woman in a man's body, the film captures the annual Koothandavar festival in Koovagam. Commercially, Navarasa was a nonstarter but the film won much critical acclaim and also the National Award (2005) for the Best Regional Movie.
"If Navarasa had commercial elements such as a dream sequence with the lead pair gyrating to peppy beats, it may have garnered different response. Very few, even among the literate, appreciate meaningful cinema such as Navarasa. The times are changing and awareness has increased about the transgender community, but more needs to be done in terms of policies and laws," says Ameer, the director of the film Paruthiveeran.
Debutant director Kadhir, of the soon-to-be released Tamil film Thenavattu, says his movie will set the benchmark for portrayal of aravanis in Tamil cinema. "We even feed a stray dog but we wouldn't want to help these people. They resort to begging and prostitution because of lack of employment. My film throws a differ ent light on this community. We need to learn to empathise and also change our attitude towards aravanis," he says.
Legislative concerns Homosexual relations are still a crime in India under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which dates back to 1860 The vague nature of the legislation has resulted in it being used against a wide range sexual behaviour such as oral sex (heterosexual and homosexual), sodomy, and bestiality The punishment ranges from 10 years to life imprisonment No major Indian political party has raised endorsed gay rights in their party mani festo or platform. However, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Brinda Karat, did in 2003 write an open letter to the then minister for law and justice, Arun Jaitley, demanding a repeal of Section 377
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Guatemala: Transgender People Face Deadly Attacks

The Guatemalan government must take immediate steps to stop a pattern of deadly attacks and possible police violence against transgender women and gay men, and end impunity for these crimes, Human Rights Watch said today in aletter to Guatemalan President Oscar Berger.
One transgender woman was murdered and another was critically wounded on December 17 when they were gunned down on a street in Guatemala City. Paulina (legal name Juan Pablo Méndez Cartagena) and Sulma (legal name Kevin Robles) were stopped by four men on motorcycles at an intersection in Guatemala City's Zone One, the center of the city.
(Photo: Twenty-one year old Melissa Simpson is a transvestite sex worker in Guatemala City. She is part of OASIS, a project to improve the lives of the sexual minority in Guatemala.)
Eyewitnesses reported that the assailants were wearing police uniforms and riding police motorcycles that identified them as members of the national police. The assailants shot Paulina twice in the head, killing her immediately. They shot Sulma three times, and she is still recuperating from her injuries.Paulina, a former sex worker, worked for the Organización de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al SIDA (OASIS), a nongovernmental organization that works to prevent HIV/AIDS and to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Sulma is a volunteer with OASIS and a sex worker.

Since the attack, Sulma and other transgender sex workers have reported being subject to undue police surveillance, causing them to fear for their lives. According to Sulma's report to OASIS, police warned her that, as witness to the attack, her life is in danger. OASIS said that its office and personnel have been under undue police surveillance. According to OASIS, the Office of the Public Prosecutor has made no further investigations into the attack since preliminary investigations in late December.

"These cold–blooded shootings are just the latest tragedy in Guatemala's pattern of deadly violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity," said Jessica Stern, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "The police have not done enough to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and now there is concern that they may be responsible for someone's murder."

LGBT people in Guatemala regularly face attacks and threats. In 2005, at least 13 transgender women and gay men were murdered in Guatemala. On December 21, two men in an unmarked car with tinted windows robbed two gay male sex workers at gunpoint in Guatemala City.

In the space of a single month, three gay men were murdered in Guatemala City late last year. Luis Sicán was shot to death on November 6 in Guatemala City’s Zone One. Flavio José Morales was shot to death in Zone Three of on October 12. Héctor Osmín García was shot to death by a security guard on October 7 while distributing flyers for a beauty salon. According to OASIS, there have been no prosecutions in any of these cases.

In its letter to Guatemala's president, Human Rights Watch outlined several steps that the government should take to end the violence and intimidation targeting LGBT people in Guatemala.

First, the government must ensure prompt, thorough and impartial investigations of the December 17 shootings — as well as other similar attacks reported over the past year. The authorities must also ensure that those responsible for these crimes are brought to justice.

In addition, the Guatemalan government should end any undue police surveillance of Sulma and other transgender sex workers, of OASIS and other NGOs advocating for the rights of LGBT people in Guatemala.

Human Rights Watch recommended that national police work with representatives of LGBT and sex worker communities to introduce sensitivity training in accordance with human rights principles to end discrimination against LGBT people and sex workers.

"Sulma has good reason to fear that the people who attacked her could strike again,"said Stern. "Guatemalan authorities must take immediate steps to protect LGBT people and hold their assailants accountable."

Human Rights Watch sent letters today detailing these human rights abuses to President Oscar Berger, the Office of the Minister of the Interior, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, the national police, the Solicitor for Human Rights, and the Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala.
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Mr ya Miss?

Sex change operations are on the rise in India and are being resorted to by people from all walks of life, report Shuma Raha, Gouri Shukla and Anirban Das Mahapatra

The media circus around the Mafatlal property dispute last month was mainly because the case had an irresistible sideshow to it: Ajay Mafatlal, who was staking claim to his family property as the elder brother among his siblings, was not a natural born man. Originally a woman (he’s been Aparna Mafatlal for most of his life), he had undergone a sex change operation to become a man.

But if you thought sex change operations were the prerogative of the rich and the famous, those with the money and the leisure to indulge their whims and fantasies, think again. Cases of sex change operation, or sex reassignment surgery, as it is called, are on the rise in India. And the people going in for it come from all walks of life. Points out Dr Manohar Lal Sharma, a Delhi-based plastic surgeon, “I have had patients ranging from schoolteachers to MBAs, from barristers to bureaucrats.”

Dr Sharma says that up until the mid-Nineties, he would probably do one sex change surgery in two years. “But these days, I do about three to five surgeries every year. I receive about one request for a sex change operation every week, though not all of them eventually go in for the procedure,” he says.

But those who do, are passionately, deeply, committed to their choice. Take Tara, a 28-year-old teacher from Delhi, for instance. She wanted to become a man so she could marry her girlfriend. She underwent extensive counselling sessions and remained undeterred in her decision to go ahead with the procedure. The operation took place three years ago, after which they got married. They have been living as man and wife ever since.

So why do some people feel compelled to transform themselves into their opposite genders? Rocky, a 32-year-old transsexual, who went in for a sex change operation four years ago, says he never felt like a woman. “I always felt like a man trapped in a female body,” he says. Explains Dr Kalpesh Gajiwala, a plastic surgeon in Mumbai who carried out Aparna Mafatlal’s operation, “The need for sex change is triggered by gender dysphoria, or a gender identity crisis, where an individual wants to realign his or her body to his or her gender perception.” He adds: “Basically, these are people who feel that they are caught in the wrong body. And sex change offers them a way out of their predicament.”

A sex change procedure ? from male to female or vice versa ? involves changing the genitalia as well as other physical attributes like breasts or body hair. It is a fairly expensive process and costs upwards of Rs 1.5 lakh for male to female, and about Rs 4 lakh for female to male operations. “It involves hormone therapy and multiple operations, done in stages,” says Dr Mukund Thatte, another plastic surgeon based in Mumbai. But before that, the patient has to be counselled about the physical and social fallout of sex change and a psychiatrist has to give his approval that he or she is indeed ready to undergo the procedure.

“Ultimately, it’s the individual’s psychology that drives the decision,” says Dr Gajiwala. Ashok, a 58-year-old businessman in Delhi, has sought a sex change operation. “I have lived in a man’s body all my life, but I want to die as a woman,” he told Dr Sharma. Ashok, whose treatment is currently on, has cut his ties with his entire family to start a new life in a new place and under a new name.

The question of identity is, of course, crucial in such cases. A new body requires a new persona and in any case most people want to treat their past as a closed chapter and start on a clean slate. Says Dr Gajiwala, “Most of the time, the individual relocates after the sex change operation has been carried out. This saves them the trauma of being questioned again and again.”

But despite the rise in the incidence of sex change operations, social acceptance of transgendered people is still a long way off in India. “Few families, unless they are exceptionally broad-minded, support a person who undergoes a sex change,” says Dr Gajiwala. The support usually comes from the partner and from the peer group of like-minded people.

Social opprobrium apart, a sex changed person has also got to deal with the limitations of the procedure itself. “The patient has to accept the idea that he or she will suffer a complete loss of fertility,” says Dr Sharma. Adds Dr Thatte, “Penile reconstruction is the most difficult part of the surgery, which is one reason female to male procedures may not always be satisfactory.”

Again, while most transgendered persons report being happy with their new life, there have been odd cases of sex change operations with tragic consequences. A woman, a bank employee, who came to Calcutta from Patna determined to become a man and marry her girlfriend, broke down after her breasts were removed. “She never came back for the remainder of the operations and eventually committed suicide,” says Dr Tapas Chakraborty, an anaesthetist who was part of the team of doctors who conducted the operation.

The road to sex change and thereafter is fraught with many a pitfall. But those who want to correct the mismatch between their mind and body could take heart: it’s a road that’s being traversed more frequently now.
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Beautiful Indian Crossdresser In Saree

Beautiful Indian Crossdresser In Saree
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Come, I Am Your Lucky Chance Dance.


hijras
Bharatanatyam dancer, owner of nine dance schools. Outcaste turned hero, gorgeous, flamboyant, Laxminarayan Tripathi embodies all the schisms in the world of the dance bar: the ignominy and the freedom, the pride and the pathos. As the voice of an entire community of hijras, she strikes an ironically hopeful note in the last profile in this series.

"Ooh La la! So sexy” gasps Laxminarayan Tripathi in her loud nasal twang, as a young man in tight jeans and silver vest catches her eye. “Tissue paper, sweetheart,” she confides. “One time use only.” Another hijra may have balked at drawing attention to herself in a crowded, upscale Bandra coffee house, but Laxmi, 5’11 in a green salwar kameez and delicate white, beaded jootis, keeps her voice high and leaves the couch often to lope around the room with lanky strides — to meet friends, talk to waiters, visit the bathroom. The former dance bar girl and now social activist is a whirlwind. Dramatic, voluble, sensuous, impossible to contain and welcoming of attention.

Laxmi was born in Thane in 1979, the eldest child of an orthodox Brahmin couple from Uttar Pradesh. Her early years were marred by sickness — double pneumonia, typhoid and asthma. Her parents coddled her, permitting allowances other children couldn’t have dreamt of. “I was their golden boy,” she sighs in flawless English, which she intersperses throughout with chaste Hindi. In the second standard, Laxmi was enthralled by Bharatanatyam, its costumes, make-up and jewellery. Despite their initial discomfiture, her parents allowed her to pursue her passion.

This was the first time the Tripathis confronted whispers about their son. Despite their reservations, Laxmi says they supported her, smiting criticism with “Mind your own business. He’s our child.” She says, “God couldn’t be everywhere, so he created my mother. She’s a gem. And my father is such a strong person, touch wood. Every hijra should have parents like mine.” The little boy in the purple and gold Krishna outfit, wide black eyes accentuated with kajal, soft, perfumed cheeks rubbed red with rouge, continued studying dance in Thane’s Singhania High and Bim’s Paradise schools.

It was at six that Laxmi was first sexually abused by an acquaintance. She will only divulge that the abuse lasted until she turned 12. “Many hijras were abused as children,” she points out. In the ninth grade, Laxmi met Shabina Frances, another hijra. They became friends and Shabina promised her she’d be her guru if she joined them. Shabina, along with some other educated, socially conscious hijras, was the founder of Dai Welfare Society, a Mumbai-based ngo, which works for the community, especially on hiv/aids awareness and access to the medical fraternity.

Laxmi was aware of the hijras much before she met Shabina, aware that in mainstream society the term “hijra” has a derogatory connotation. She says, “People used to call me a hijra for years, and because they did I didn’t want to know about hijras. Eventually, the things you evade, confront you. And now I’m here.” The community introduced Laxmi to the freedoms of living with people similar to her. She familiarised herself with the hierarchy of power and the rules, which she describes in broad strokes, refusing to divulge secrets she believes are her responsibility to protect. “How did I know that I was a hijra?” she mulls. “I don’t know. I asked myself that. I tried to run away, but I kept returning. Even now, it’s a question that’s on my mind 24 hours. But do I want to go back (to the mainstream)? No! My soul won’t allow it.”

By the time she joined Mithibai College, Laxmi shrugged off the last chains of constraint. She was the only drag queen on campus, and describes herself as “slutty, bitchy, and sexy”. Her passion for dance continued, she opened what is now a chain of nine Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance schools, called Lucky Chance Dance Academy in Thane. While studying for a commerce diploma she choreographed dance events and became a model coordinator.

One of Laxmi’s explorations led her to work for five years at the Duru dance bar in Ulhasnagar. She laughs, “If I’d been a woman, I’d have had a kotha of my own! I wanted to be a courtesan,” she adds ironically, “it’s such a respectable job.” Atharva Nair, Laxmi’s friend and assistant at Dai, laughs loudly. “Tell her the truth,” he gurgles. “You wanted to lure men!” Laxmi is unabashed. “He’s a bad boy, but it’s true,” she drawls. “I love to play with men. I joined to see why men frequent dance bars. I would pretend to love them, but I’d think, ‘Bastards. You leave your wife at home and come here to satisfy your whims!’ Luckily for me, I made good money.”

Since the ban on dance bars on August 14, Laxmi has seen many of the bar dancers she knew become prostitutes. She says, “They’re being made to dance naked in the midst of a group of men. They’re dancing at homes, cabarets, indulging in unsafe sexual behaviour. They’re more vulnerable. One case of Tarannum Khan (the dance bar girl in police custody for her alleged links with bookies) doesn’t prove that all bar girls have links with the underworld, or are rich. These false linkages have been created for political benefit.”

Despite the odds, Laxmi is empowered — partly because of her work at Dai, of which she is now the president. Co-funded by the Mumbai District aids Control Society and the National aids Control Organisation, the ngo now has 70 members, all hijras. It organises advocacy meetings with local leaders and the police, is campaigning for the inclusion of the word transgender in the Constitution, and is fighting for equal rights to education and employment.

Laxmi believes getting the mainstream and hijra communities to interact will end the stigmas and misconceptions. Recognition and respect will begin. A recent survey by Dai reports that 49 percent of the city’s 2.5 lakh hijras are infected with hiv/aids. “Hijras are on the verge of extinction, dying like flies,” Laxmi says. She is working on a New Year’s eve programme in Thane which will further interaction with the mainstream.

As the president of Dai, Laxmi earns a salary of Rs 10,000 a month, which she supplements with badhai. She receives 25 percent of the earnings from her dance schools, now run by an array of assistants. On occasion, she makes special appearances in films — she has choreographed and acted in Inder Kumar’s Aashiq and a music video. She appears in an episode of Lonely Planet’s Six Degrees and the award-winning documentary Between the Lines on the Third Gender.

Her education and fluency in English, combined with the continued support of her younger brother Shashinarayan, sister Rukmini and her parents has allowed Laxmi to be part of both the hijra and mainstream communities. The experiences are like night and day. Yet, she says, it is only by inhabiting both worlds that she feels complete. Unlike many hijras, Laxmi hasn’t changed her biological name or left home. She has innumerable chelas or followers, from whom she refuses a portion of their earnings. But with her guru Pinky, a “sweetheart”, she plays the role of chela with gusto. She is the best spokesperson her community could get. “I am respected because of my work and because of how I treat my people,” she says. “Some are in prostitution, fine, I’m not. But they’re still my hijras.” She holds out her hand, “This finger’s mine, and this. Which one to cut? The pain will be mine.”

Laxmi’s insights have led her to be sought out, and she is aware of her own value. “I do charge people for interviewing me on-screen,” she admits, red talons gleaming, long fingers playing with her gold watch. “I don’t charge them like Madhuri Dixit or Aishwarya Rai would, but I do require an honorarium. If the BBC wants to interview me I will talk in pounds. If Discovery wants me I’ll talk in dollars, to a German production I will talk in Euros. This is the time I must earn and save money.”

During this interview, a woman behind us at the coffee shop had been desperate to listen in on the conversation. Unable to bear the suspense, she perches at our table, and says, “I’ll just leave after this call.” Fiddling with her cell phone she tries to unobtrusively absorb Laxmi’s unusual look. When I ask her to leave, Laxmi laughs cordially. “Let her listen,” she says in a sugary voice. “You enjoy yourself baby. It’s good, people should listen.” She launches into a graphic conversation about sex. Mouth open, the girl shuts her phone, exits. Laxmi cackles, “The moment I told her ‘sit and listen’ she ran off! These are the things I do!” These and more.

Dancer turned social activist. Outcast turned hero. Laxminarayan Tripathi may have a sexually ambiguous name, but there is nothing ambiguous about either her achievements or the distance she continues to travel."


Part II:
“We can be very nasty. I was proud of that. I enjoyed it”
Laxminarayan Tripathi, also president of Dai Welfare Society, an NGO of hijras working for hijras, speaks to Sonia Faleiro about the innards of the community
How would you define a hijda?
Someone who has a hijda’s soul. Unless you have that you can’t be a hijda. Someone who is feminine but not a woman, masculine but not a man. beyond the boxes of man and woman is the Third Gender, and that is the hijda. Someone who follows the rules and regulations of the community, has a guru, and lives in saris. We have our own community, culture, and background. You can be a castrated man and still be a man. You can be a non-castrated hijda and still be a hijda.

So a hijda needn’t be a eunuch?
Not at all. You don’t have to be castrated to be in the community. I’m not. You don’t have to take hormone pills. That depends on your whims—if you want to look more beautiful, womanlier. For those that aren’t castrated, the nearest English word is transgender. The Hindi word for both castrated and non-castrated members of this community is hijda.

The castration is done by a dai. Why?
It has religious and historical connotations. The ancient technique, which we continue to follow. Castration is illegal in India, if it were legalised it would be so good for hijdas. But I don’t want to go into details. These are community secrets.

Is there a class system?
No. There are three sub-groups. Dancing and singing at the birth of a child or at weddings is called Badhai. Begging at streetlights or shop to shop is called Mangti. And the third is prostitution, Dhandawali. Your own abilities decide what you do.

Why are hijdas relegated to only three professions?
There are no schools in which hijdas are allowed. Where there are men, women and hijdas. Without education, how can there be jobs? The British exploited and marginalised the community and we haven’t recovered since then. They saw the power of the Third Gender, their influence among the Nizams, the Rajputs, as holders of the palace keys, as protectors of the queen’s harems, as members of the advisory committee, even as warriors like Shrikhandi in the Mahabharata. The British chopped our power and hijdas needed the permission of the Collector’s office to even leave home. After India gained Independence, hijdas lost their freedom even more. We became more vulnerable. So what remains? Clapping hands, begging, dancing. Otherwise you sell your body for survival.

What does the clapping signify?
It signifies that we are hijdas. It excludes us from everyone else.

There’s also the sari lifting. Have you done that?
I did it for the first time on Navratri, in Thane. I was dancing the garba and this man kept trying to touch me everywhere. He pulled my chain and caught me by my slip. I called my chelas and we danced naked. We stripped off everything and showed him real colour of our community—how nasty we can be. I was proud of what I did. I enjoyed it.

Can you explain the Guru-Chela relationship?
We have an ancient guru-Chela parampara, so you need a guru to be in the community. You can choose you own guru, but sometimes, perhaps in love, you make the wrong decision. A guru is your representative in the community. If she’s good, she’ll teach you the rules and regulations. For example, one must always speak politely to the elderly, never back answer the guru, how to behave in a large group, the songs and dances. A guru will warn you about the good and bad and teach you how to live within the community as well as the external world. A Guru will choose a favourite chela to give her property to. In turn the chela must take care of the guru in her old age and perform her last rites. It’s a parent child relationship.

And who are the Nayaks?
The leaders above the gurus are known the Nayaks. There are seven Nayaks, all in Mumbai. They are the head of the community, and are highly respected. They are our Supreme Court.

Is the guru-chela relationship built on fear?
Always. They can be mad on their power. Sometimes, if the chelas are not strong, their gurus physically abuse them.

What portion of a chela’s earnings does the Guru take?
Earlier it used to 100 per cent, and the Guru would dole out pocket money if she wanted. That’s how the exploitation by the Gurus started. Now it’s 25 or 50 per cent. I’m the rare guru who takes nothing at all.

Are you allowed to speak out about the community? I’m one of the few who is. I’m from a different background than most hijdas, and that made me open to the world. My education, parents, way of living, the fact that I never faced discrimination makes a difference. Today I walk into _Mocha (a coffee house) and no one looks at me. But for another hij it would be harder. I present myself differently than most hij’s because how one looks make a vital difference.

How do you react when people stare at you?
Agar zamana mujhe dekhte hai to mein dekhne ki cheez hoon. To zamana mujhe dekhegi hi. I’m a consumer. I pay for things. I know what my rights are in a democracy. Nobody can stop me. But people do pay comments on the street, particularly where I live, in Thane. I’ve been called proud, a bitch, slut, whore, that I sleep around, and supply girls through my dance classes. But that’s what any proud girl has to hear from men!

Why is the community so quiet about what it does?
It’s a question I keep asking. Why are you so quiet, why don’t you fight for your rights? But if you’ve been traumatized by the non-acceptance of your own parents, it’s very hard to face the world. After that hurt you cannot survive facing the rest of the world.

People fear hijdas. Do you know why?
Misconceptions, like when we die our bodies are hit with chappals, that we steal children. That’s just rubbish, rubbish! If you abandon your child because he has the soul of a hijda, why shouldn’t we keep him? We can’t afford to abandon him as well. Or that once you join the hijdas you can’t go back. Some people do cut their hair, and return.

But it’s funny, because on one hand, we’re respected, because Krishna said when you bless you will be blessed and when you curse, you will be curse. People like to be blessed by us. On the other hand people discriminate against us. Some give us money because of the blessings they hope to receive, others because they want to get rid of us; they don’t want us to clap our hands and lift our saris. This reaction of fear also demonstrates our power. Then there are those who come to hijdas for their sexual gratification, for things women do not provide, like oral sex and anal sex. The times of Khajuraho are gone; we are a conservative country now. But hijdas are still very open.

How does the community view sex?
As lust. Nothing more. But after a certain age, when you reach a certain level in the community, sex is not important, the community is. It’s a misconception that hijdas are promiscuous. That’s like saying all men are promiscuous. Then again, I don’t think monogamy exists. The only monogamous man was Ram, and I doubt that even he was monogamous!

What do you wish was different for hijdas?
Simple—give love, take love. Tum agar mujhe pyar se dekhegi mein bhi tumhe behen karke bolonji. If you talk rubbish, naturally I will curse you, clap my hands and lift my sari. What other alternative do I have? Mein khud hi dukhon se bhari huyin hoon, thhukrai hoon, tum mujhe pyar ki nazron se dekhegi, mere kandhon pe ek soft hand dalogi, I’ll give my heart to you, my soul to you. Accept us. We are one of you. We haven’t fallen from the Seventh Sky. But it will take decades for this situation to change. Mainstream society must be part of this change, it must create acceptance.

Why do hijdas break contact with their families after joining the community?
Because there’s no acceptance. The family is taunted: Hijde ka ma, hijde ka baap, hijde ka bhai. It’s not a rule. I’m still very close to my biological parents and my siblings. We may not have blood relations within the community, but we have strings of relations, entwined to build a rope.

What do you love, and what would you change about the community?
I want the exploitation by the Gurus to end. Everyone should be allowed his or her individuality. This is the tragedy of our community, we’re stigmatised by the mainstream community and then exploited by our own people. It leads to enormous trauma. I love the beauty and colour of the hijdas, the fact that it’s a divine community.
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Transsexuality in Iran



Transsexuality crossdress in Iran
Before the Islamic Revolution in1979, the issue of transsexuality in Iran had never been officially addressed by the government. Beginning in the mid-1980s, however, transgenderedindividuals have been officially recognized by the government and allowed to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
pic: Athena, a 20-year-old male to female transsexual in conservative Iran, brings tea to her father and her sister at her home in Tehran.

History
Pre-1979
In 1963, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wrote a book in which he stated that there is no religious restriction on corrective surgery. However, this applied only to intersexuals, and at the time Khomeini was a radical, anti-Shah revolutionary and his fatwas did not carry any weight with the Imperial government, which did not have any specific policies regarding transgendered individuals.[1]
After the Revolution
The new religious government that came to be established after the 1979 Revolution classed transsexuals and transvestites with gays and lesbians, who were condemned byIslam and faced the punishment of lashing and death under Iran's penal code.
One early campaigner for transsexual rights is Maryam Hatoon Molkara, who was formerly a man known as Fereydoon. Before the revolution, she had longed to become a woman but could not afford surgery. Furthermore, she wanted religious authorization. Since1975, she had been writing letters to Ayatollah Khomeini, who was to become the leader of the revolution and was in exile. After the revolution, she was fired, forcedly injected with male hormone, and institutionalized. She was later released with help from her connection, and she kept lobbying many other leaders. Later she went to see Khomeini, who had returned to Iran. At first she was stopped and beaten by his guards, but eventually Khomeini gave her a letter to authorize her gender reassignment operation. The letter is later known as the fatwa that authorizes such operations in Iran.[2]
A small number of Iranian clerics have advised that homosexual men and women undergo gender reassignment in order for them to be able to live normal lives.
Contemporary status
Khomeini's original fatwa has since been reconfirmed by the current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and is also supported by many other Iranian clerics.Transsexuality crossdress in Iran [3]
pic: Maryam Hatoon Molkara, who was formerly a man known as Fereydoon, was an early campaigner for the rights of transsexuals in Iran.

However, there is still a great deal of stigma attached to the idea of transsexuality and gender reassignment in ordinary Iranian society, and most transsexuals, after completing their transition, are advised to maintain discretion about their past. Once a transgendered individual has undergone gender reassignment, that person legally becomes the proper gender - male, in the case of transgendered men, and female, in the case of transgendered women. All legal documents, such as birth certificates and passports, are also changed accordingly.
Hojatoleslam Kariminia, a mid-level cleric who is in favor of transgendered rights, has stated that he wishes "to suggest that the right of transsexuals to change their gender is a human right" and that he is attempting to "introduce transsexuals to the people through my work and in fact remove the stigma or the insults that sometimes attach to these people." 
UNHCR's 2001 report says that sex reassignment surgery is performed frequently and openly in Iran, and that homosexual and crossdressing people would be safe as long as they keep a low profile. However, Safara Project's 2004 report considers UNHCR's report over-optimistic. Safara's report suggests that UNHCR underestimated legal pressure over LGBT.
The report further states that currently, it is not possible for transgendered individuals to choose not to undergo surgery - if they are approved for gender reassignment, they are expected to undergo treatment immediately. Those who wish to remain "non-operative" (as well as those who crossdress and/or identify as genderqueer) are considered their biological gender, and as such they are likely to face harassment as being homosexuals and subject to the same laws barring homosexual acts
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A Proud Young Woman

I was...
I was born Vijay, to Marwari parents in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Some of the earliest memories I have are of being different from the other boys around me. At that stage, I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what it was that made me feel so trapped and helpless. As a child, one is not equipped to handle thoughts as mature and complex as gender or sexuality. But as I grew older and more aware of the world around me, I also became more aware of the world inside of me. And it confused me more.

The first awakening...

The movie, “Object of my Affection” opened my eyes to a new possibility. One I had not considered till that point. Homosexuality seemed the only plausible answer to my situation. And I decided that I was a gay man, and began dating men. However, the respite I received from this new lifestyle was not as fulfilling as I had envisioned. For the emptiness, the confusion and the confinement still gnawed at me, deep inside. It was in the 11 th grade when I met Karan*, and fell in love. Being with him opened me up, and that woman inside of me, whom I had kept suppressed this whole time, slowly began to emerge. He was the first person I opened myself up to. I told him everything. My fears, my state of mind and my deepest needs.
He understood, and he loved me for everything that I was. But it was not meant to last, for we live in a very unforgiving, judgmental world which has no compassion for anything that is different. The pressures of society were too much for Karan and we parted ways in 2001.

The road ahead...
I joined St. Stephens College, as a gay man . But I was a woman and wanted to be loved as one. And the more I lived this life, the more it chewed at my mind that I wanted to be with someone who would love me, not as a man, but as a woman . It was then that Hollywood would come to my rescue for the second time in my life. The movie, “Boys don’t Cry” finally discussed transsexuality and the fact that it is not as freakish as I had thought. Spurred on, I looked to the internet to enlighten me further about this new and wonderful opportunity that had appeared before me. What I discovered from that point on made me happier and stronger as each day passed. The shame and hurt soon turned to hope and courage.

The Struggle...
As luck would have it, everything at that point started to happen at the same time. Karan came back into my life, only to leave again. My family finally discovered my condition and made me seek medical help with the intention of making me see that all that I felt was just in my head and if I was only convinced otherwise, I would be able to carry on living as a man.
It was during this time that God sent me an angel, in the form of Dr. Amit Sen, my therapist. He made me see that what I was going through was genuine and that there was a way by which I could set myself free. It was he who began my slow transition from scared, confused man to happy, confident woman.

It was now, during my MA in Sanskrit that I decided to start my life anew. I shifted from North Delhi to Defense Colony. The shift was much more, however, since I shifted into my new home as myself, a woman called Mahua Agarwal.
I had been on hormone therapy for a while by now, which helped not only my physical appearance, but also the way I was perceived by other people.
After living as a woman for about a year, I was finally ready for the operation that would change my life forever. I underwent my Sexual Reassignment Surgery in August, 2006 and have been living as a woman ever since.

At peace, finally...
Now I am finally in a place where I am comfortable with myself. For the first time in my life, not only can I stand to look at the person I see in the mirror every day, but I am beginning to love her. I have no regrets, no expectations from my life or the people around me now.
But if I could, one thing I would like is to tell my story to as many people as I can, in the hope that through my experiences, they may learn tolerance and forgiveness for that which they don’t understand.
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I was imprisoned in a male body, until a surgeon knife cut me free

Soon after I turned 13, my mirror stopped being my friend. The school uniform added a compulsory turban to my head, and nature added hair to my face. Clothes were nice if they were my mother's and long hair was fine when it was in plaits, instead of being wound inside a turban. Games were fun as long as they were 'Teacher' and 'Housekeeping' and not cricket; preferred companions were girls and not boys. But then I was Gunraj from Chandigarh, today I am Gazal, 25.

And if you just looked at my picture again to check how masculine (or feminine) I look now, I will not blame you. It is the most natural reaction from a society, which unconsciously enforces a rigid distinction between genders. Any blur on this line is generally laughed at. Yet, I must tell you the story of my gender change, my liberation. Because there are thousands of people who feel trapped in their bodies. They hide instincts for fear of rejection, uncertain whether it is right to feel and want what everyone around them finds wrong. I want people to know how I survived 25 years in a role I did not choose for myself. A role which I played day after day without any hope of the curtain falling.

When I was often told that I was girlish, I was totally confused. The condescending voices opened taps of guilt deep inside, but somewhere even deeper, rivers of happiness sprang from that acknowledgment of my true self. But the happiness made me feel guiltier because no one told me that it was all right to be happy.

One of my happier childhood memories is of a school drama, in which I played a female character. During rehearsals, I was the most excited actor. Dressed in a pretty skirt for the performance, I told my father that I would be adjudged the Best Supporting Actress, if my performance was good. Best Supporting Actor, he corrected. I argued and tried to pick holes in his argument. But reason and logic were on his side; I only had a mess in my head. A transsexual child is forever trapped in this quest for identity, and in finding ways to evade the mocking laughter and derogatory names hurled by taunting peers. There is a sinking feeling all along that I do not fit in, that I never will fit in.

Puberty is a tough time for everybody, a time when one tries to understand one's sexuality. In that age of unanswered questions, I distinctly remember getting goosebumps watching a provocative music video by a male pop singer. And in the numerous sleepless nights that followed, it dawned on me, for the first time with a sense of absoluteness, that I was different, and would always be. For years to come, I was to think how unfair it was of God to make me gay.

But thankfully God did not leave me without anything. Today, I do not value academics much, but through my growing up years, I was considered a "bright child", "good orator" and a "very disciplined student". But for me my worth was in my singing, writing and histrionics. Recently, when I met my ex-schoolmates and teachers, they had high opinions about my student days. Said one, "Gunraj, I used to think it so unfair that you had every enviable quality in you." While another said, "I wouldn't have imagined you as anything, but a truly happy child."

I give my family the entire credit for still having been able to retain a sane mind. My stress found an equal opposition in the love I constantly got from my parents, my extended family and later, my friends. Initially, my parents could not comprehend how a boy could feel like a girl, yet they never gave up trying to understand, and never gave up on me. They would ask me to try and change the way I thought. I would wail: "It is not about the way I think, it is about the way I am. I do not choose to be like this, Papa. I was born this way. Why don't you go and try living as a member of the opposite gender?"

They did not punish me even when they found out that I would impersonate a girl and chat to strangers over the phone. When I ran away from home before my board exams, they brought me back and loved me even more. My brother, sister and relatives stood by me and held me tight when I teetered at the edge of a precipice.

The board exams went well, so did the entrance exams and I was admitted to a well-known engineering college. Thus I went to spend four years of my life in a boys' hostel. I was prepared to be an oddity there, ready for the remarks-"Always goes to the bathroom to change!" "Speaks so effeminately!" "Walk is so girly!" What I was not prepared, however, was for the severe ragging. Despite those unmentionable horrors of the first year, those four years are the most beautiful time of my life. In the cacophony of mocking voices and laughter, there were a few precious faces, which became my dear friends. I think it was in those years that I started realising that it was all right to be happy with myself. College life gave me freedom and the chance to explore my extra-curricular interests. Besides singing, debating and directing college plays, I would sneak out and watch late-night movies and go on trips with friends.

After completing college, I found myself sitting in the massive office of a software giant, gazing at the computer screen. A studio apartment, the company bus, my desk and the office dormitory summed up my entire world. I was rated among the top 10 per cent of the company's 20,000-strong work force. I never objected to an 18-hour workday because it kept me from the jeering whispers in the corporate hallways.

It was hard to trust anyone now. The fear of rejection kept me from accepting anybody new in my life. I desperately wanted to run away again, but I realised that the only thing to run away from was my own self. There were times, however, when the pangs of loneliness were so acute that I would look for a companion in gay websites. I would also meet men occasionally, but they were looking for a 'man' in me-my whole life had been about not being one. Gradually, I understood that gender dysphoria is not the same as being gay. While the causes of stress in both conditions might be similar to an extent, the conditions themselves are quite different.

A homosexual man, for instance, might have no problem in wearing a formal shirt and tie to office every day, while that particular dress code of my company was one of the three main reasons I decided to quit! My extremely peaceful and dull place of posting was the second. The third reason was an attempt to 'fit in' somewhere.

So I moved to Mumbai-my city of dreams. I was doing a one-year diploma in filmmaking. I was I happy that I had made the right career choice, and filmmaking was a sedative to the pain I could never completely learn to live with.

A year passed in a flash, and it was time to choose subjects for our final documentary films, which had to be made in groups of six. When I proposed 'Transsexuality' as a theme, only two friends who knew my condition raised their hands in support. That was perhaps the most important moment of my life. Soon enough, three more friends joined in, and the group was complete. The title suggested was 'To Be or Not To Be'. It sounded perfect, but something inside me said that it would change. The new name occurred to me the next morning-To be… ME.

I had never had any plans of coming out of the closet for the film; but that was the case with all the transgenders we met. Soon I realised that I was expecting others to face the demons, which I could not face. Now it was time to accept, love and celebrate being myself. Almost magically, the day I decided to face the camera, we started discovering others who were willing, and even excited, to share their stories! In my heart, I knew it was God's way to tell me that He supported my decision. To Be… ME turned out to be the best film of the year.

I had been reading about Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) for many years, but my research for making the film had reassured me that it was not only all right to be happy, but it was my right to be happy. "So, when are you going for it?" was the first question my father asked after seeing the film. And ever since that question, there has been no looking back.

A year-and-a-half ago, I started my gender reassignment procedure, which will probably go on for another year. Frankly, this period of transformation is not one of the most convenient-socially, physically or emotionally. I was fortunate to be hired as an assistant by a veteran filmmaker and the staff at my office is truly godsend. They do their best to understand the issue and go out of their way to ensure my comfort in this period of transition. In the last 20 months my inner-self is slowly, but surely, taking its form in the mirror. I am thrilled to get compliments that I have always pined for, and it is musical to hear the taxi driver ask, "Madam, kahaan jaana hai?"

On October 19, 2007, my male genitals were replaced by female genitalia through vaginoplasty. Dr Chettawut performed the surgery in Bangkok. Currently, I down four tablets a day, a part hormone therapy, which has to be continued throughout my life. I am also undergoing electrolysis for removal of facial hair. This will continue for one more year. Finding myself cost me around Rs 5.5 lakh, including Dr Chettawut's fee of $7,000.

Thailand is renowned for male-to-female SRS. In my three-week stay, I saw patients of different nationalities, races and ages. Dr Chettawut performs around 20 vaginoplasties every month. It melted my heart to see a middle-aged woman accompanying her 'husband' for 'his' surgery. The 'husband' was a transsexual woman. I had read on the internet about such cases, where a spouse turns into a companion for a transsexual person, but to actually see it was like witnessing the purest form of love.

The surgeon's certificate identifies me as an "infertile female". Both are strong words. For most, the first might be stronger; for me, it is the second one. Being a mother, after all, is not just about the ability to give birth. Being transsexual, also, is not just about looking masculine or feminine. And the condition itself is not psychological. The bottom line is that gender dysphoria needs a medical correction. And an SRS is only as unnatural as any other surgery.

The sooner a transsexual person can start their gender reassignment procedure, the easier is the transition, and the better, the visible results. But at the same time, one must be mature enough to understand one's priorities. If 'infertile' is the stronger word for you, or if you're doing this for anybody except yourself, think again!

I still have a lot of catching up to do. I badly need to get some humour and spontaneity into my life. Then there is an urgent need to catch up on clothes, shoes, earrings and makeup. But there is this one thing I caught up with, recently and not many people do that-Life!
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