Going to meet a Hijara? “Don’t”, “they forcefully pull people in their community”, and “they are a part of Mafia gangs ‘, were the comments I heard when I had made a choice to meet the Hijara community for my research. However, going against all the odds, I went there. I was warmly welcomed with a cup of tea and biscuits. They were very loving and had high dreams in their eyes. When I asked them about their expectation from the society, one of them said,
“yes I am a Hijara but I am a human first.’’ “We deserve to be treated with respect.’’
To which their Guru added, “We don’t want amendments in the law on a piece of paper; we want people to follow that law.” Gender, as a term includes males, females and Transgenders too. The word accepts the existence of the Transgender population but the social world doesn’t. This socially disadvantaged population of India faces discrimination, stereotypes and prejudice in society. Because they fail to play the expected gender role in the social sphere, they fall prey to these social issues.
The Hidden Struggles
If they try to get educated and strive to work, they are rarely employed. And even if they get jobs, the treatment they receive in the work environment is undeniable. As a result, they are left with no option other than resorting to begging and prostitution. In rare cases, they have children. In such scenarios, it becomes invariably tough for the children to survive as they have to live their entire lives being labelled as a child of a ‘kinnar’ or ‘hijra’. They undergo various psychological as well as physical health issues. Due to prostitution, many hijras die of AIDS, however, no one bothers much about the death of a hijra.
The burnt scars on their skin caused due to cigarettes didn’t fail to escape from my eyes. The struggle from discovering that they are different from what they are supposed to be, to listening to all the derogatory remarks from society, going through sexual harassment, identifying themselves as a gay or homo to finally discovering themselves as a transgender, the journey is huge and courageous.
One of them opened up to me that she wanted to get educated. However, her teacher assaulted her sexually and threatened her to cooperate in the act if she wanted to get an education. Listening to such incidents makes us realize the amount of deprivation and sacrifice a hijra faces just because of not abiding by the heterosexual gender norms of society.
Key Themes and Findings of the Study
The study aimed at studying the relationship between resilience and subjective well being transgendered individuals and cis-gendered individuals. In the present study, 100 individuals between the age range of 20 to 40 years of age were administered with Questionnaire on resilience and on subjective well-being and the unstructured interview method. After having done the data collection by conducting an unstructured interview, there were certain themes which were identified.
Transgendered individuals reported having faced difficulties with respect to acquiring education in comparison to the cis-gendered individuals. The reasons reported are more likely the stringent social norms, gender disparity, poverty, lack of awareness, physical and sexual harassment, bullying and derogatory remarks. P44 said, “I always wanted to get educated but my school teacher sexually harassed me and forced me to sleep with him if I wanted to attend school. Their name changes as they get converted after the sex rearrangement surgery and the hormone replacement surgery, which becomes difficult for the admission processes in academic institutions.
2. Social freedom
P8, “We are deprived of a lot of social facilities and social lifestyles, we cannot go for a film as easily as a cis-gendered individual can go, we need to face remarks and poor treatment of the people.” However, there were participants who also mentioned the personal freedom that they as transgender get to express which cisgender cannot express due to the pressure of abiding by social norms. They agreed with the fact that the cisgenders do have better social acceptance than transgenders.
Transgenders (hijra) resort to begging and prostitution for making their life ends meet. P49, “ There was an attempt to burn me with a cigarette by a client who tried to kill me, I managed to save myself and ran from the place. This reflects resiliency and courage. The issue of using public toilets and transmission of AIDS are the major concerns. Cisgenders are on a better end in terms of these issues than transgenders.
4. Community (Hijra)
There are social norms pertaining to the gender one identifies with. Transgenders do not fall into the cisgendered norm system which is one of the reasons why they experience difficulties in surviving in the cisgender-dominated society. However, community (Hijra) plays a vital role in creating a sense of oneness, and acceptance, building on the sense of self and boosting morale. Quoting the subject P9,
“I go home to meet my family members but they force me to dress like a man, I find myself comfortable when I am with my community.”
It is the reason for their very high score on Resilience. They got their guru who encouraged them to study further and develop themselves on their own terms. The study confirmed a strong link between resilience and subjective well-being in transgender individuals. In contrast, this connection was weaker in cis-gendered individuals.
I was deeply touched by a sentence they said to me while I was leaving the place. They said, “Whenever in your life you need any help Didi please don’t hesitate to call us, we will be always there for you.’’ I left the spot with a lot of contentment, tears and resilience. And most importantly learning what being humane to humans looks like! Gender dysphoria isn’t a disorder or a condition a human chooses by choice. It’s an ascribed gender by birth. Stop laughing at them when you see them on trains or signals. They don’t do this by choice.
Certain males misuse this gender for their personal benefit. However, this does not rule out the others who genuinely are transgenders and face terrible issues. It’s us who don’t offer them jobs. Either offer them employment or stop being inhuman to them. It’s time that society should choose to respect the existence of a Hijara as a human.
It’s time we make it a point to treat a hijra as a human and stop Treating him inhumanly!
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