Research and Discussion Paper

 

They swing between both sexes: hijras as "asexual others"

 

Adnan Hossain

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They say I am transgressive

But I say I am transcendent

I am the god incarnate

                                             An anonymous hermaphrodite 

 

POSTMODERN MOMENT AND THE RESURGENCE OF INTEREST   IN THE SEXUAL MINORITY:

           

The world we live in is not only androcentric and phallocratic but also heterosexist and homophobic. The epistemological scaffolds of the discursive contours within which discourses of phallocentrism and heterosexism were hammered out have persisted almost unchallenged and unquestioned till the postmodern and the poststructuralist moments have arrived. With foucauldian genealogy and derridian deconstruction, many of the textual lacunas have now begun to be replenished. 

Filling out of such textual gaps has given rise to new array of information hitherto underrepresented and undiscovered. Such charting out of newish data has led to a resuscitation of a fresh interest in the non-authoritative, subordinated knowledge systemsof the vanquished sexual minorities.

Notable in this connection is the case of the prostitutes who have now stood up to challenge the discursive dichotomisation and binarism which compartmentalize women into good and bad women.

Modern discourse has relegated the prostitute to the status of a stigmatized social other. Discursive obsession with binarity has led to a scandalization and degradation of the sexually diverse prostitutes. Instead of viewing them as gurus of sexual lore, they have for centuries been looked at as emblems of carnal divertissement for males (1).

Equipped with intellectual and conceptual paraphernalia the postmodernism and post-structuralism has proffered, they have finally fluttered out of the citadel of stigmata to reclaim their long-lost status of hetaira (2).

New ways of intellectualizing about sexuality has led to a resurgence of interest in the muted voices of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transvestite, buggers, eunuchs, hermaphrodites, bigendered and transgendered  people (3).

 

HERMAPHRODITES AS ‘PATHOLOGIZED OTHERS’: THE POLITICS OF WESTERN MEDICINE:

 

Despite the phasing in of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies (also known as queer studies) in the academia of North America, specialized interest in the study of the hermaphrodites has been pretty skeletal (4).

Besides, early European studies of the hermaphrodites (mostly done in France) were purely medical in nature. Those studies largely zeroed in on developing technics of surgical reconstruction of the hermaphroditic people. The western bio-medical sciences looked at the ‘hermaphroditic people’ as freaks or ‘aberrant cases’ needing medicalization and correction (5). Thus the methods developed to correct gender-transgresive hermaphrodites resulted in a form of ‘medico-colonization’ of the bodies of the hermaphrodites (6).

Even today the birth of an intersexual child in the North America brings with it an endless list of problems for the whole society which endeavors to assign a sexual identity at the time of the birth of an offspring (7). Thus an intersexed child is subjected to surgical reconstruction to fit into male\female gender role. Cases where sex-assignment is impracticable are plunged into silence.

 

THE SOCIAL STATUS OF THE HERMAPHRODITES: A CROSSCULTURAL COMPARISON

 

In the context of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh owing to an absence of the medico-technological growth and exorbitant expense, sex-assignment in the case of an intersexual child is not rampant. Though societies of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are heterosexist and homophobic, Hijras in this part of this world used to posses higher social prestige due to their being endowed with specific social roles.

In India, Hijras had been traditionally looked at spiritually powerful entities capable of blessing as well as cursing (8). In the Mughal empire, Hijras had been designated   the custodians of harems (the closet within which wives, mistresses and concubines were kept)

Unlike Indian mythico-religious attitudinization, the etymology of the word ‘hermaphrodites,’ the English surrogate of Hijra clearly registers an ingrained fear of sexual difference (9).

Another interesting aspect that sets the Hijras of Indian subcontinent apart from those of the west is their visibility. Until recently intersexual people were rarely visible in the west in public. In contrast Hijras of the Indian subcontinent are found to live in bands and groups. The cases of the hermaphroditic people in the west were mostly known through the reportage of the medical practitioners. More often than not, families of the intersexual  are strongly advised to conceal ‘ the facts of sexual difference’ from the intersexed. In cases where the intersexed discovers hir (10) condition in adolescence, they are made to undergo psychological therapy to identify with a gender that their doctors deem appropriate for them. Only recently social help groups have come into existence tochallenge the moral basis of the rights of the doctors and to provide the intersexed people with spiritual care and social succor (11).

Besides, Hijras in India are far better off in terms of social security and pecuniary solvency in comparison to Bangladesh and Pakistan. Apart from the preternatural traits people ascribe to the Hijras in India, they have higher incomes and a far sounder social life. Of late a Hijra named Shabnam has been elected a parliamentarian in India (12).  Even in Pakistan a Hijra named Mohammed Aslam, was put up as a candidate by the people of Abbottabad in the 1990 election(13).

In contrast the Hijras of Bangladesh about whom this paper will address more in the later pages have no social rights.

 

DEFINITIONAL AMBIGUITIES: HIJRAS DEFINE THEMSELVES

 

Hijras or hermaphrodites are people with ambiguous genitalia. Also called intersexed , hermaphroditism is primarily a medical condition which results from multifarious biological factors. The term ‘intersexed’ is reserved to refer to a somatic condition in which the hermaphroditic person is supposed to posses both masculine and feminine traits.

Nonetheless for the sake of conceptual clarity, it is important to elaborate upon some other associated, though not clearly distinct, terms like transsexual, transvestite and eunuch. Transexuality also known as gender dysphoria is a condition where a person claims to be trapped into the body of the wrong sex. Pretty often, through surgical operations, such persons metamorphose them into the desired gender/sex .On the other hand,  transvestiteism is a situation in which a male tends to be attired  in the garbs of the opposite sex and vice versa. This emblematizes their hunch for gender crossing. Eunuchs are castrated males.

In cases of gender dysphoria  a man’s sex-surgery issues in his being castrated. Besides,

transvestitic people especially those with the proclivity to dress as women are similar  to many intersexed people who identify themselves as feminine.  Eunuchs because of their being castrated experience sexual impotency like many hermaphroditic people.  Consequently there is a considerable amount of overlap among these terms. However all these gargonistic and notional differences are peppered with reductive and heterosexist nuances and are therefore redundant to the sexually different. They have instead divined an umbrella term “transgender’ to subsume all these diverse categories (14).

However, Hijras of Bangladesh define themselves as people who are neither male nor female. They regard themselves as people incapable of sexual sensation. They also claim to have neither a male nor a female genitalia.

According to them, Hijras are of three types. These are:-

A) REAL HIJRA: These are Hijras with no trace of genitalia except for a tiny hole for urination. They can be both flat-chested as well as big-breasted.

B) MALE HIJRA: These are Hijras with a tiny non-erectile phallus. More often than not,they  go for a medical operation as having that phallic additive trimmed skyrockets the status of the male Hijras in the Hijra community . Some are said to have small-sized bust.

C) FEMALE HIJRA: These are Hijras who look pretty much like women and are said to have breasts as well as female genitalia. But they do not menstruate. They may also possess masculine traits.

Even though many have pointed out these three categories, some are disinclined to be pigeonholed as ‘male Hijra’. Besides, the third type , according to them , is a   rarity in the Hijra community of Bangladesh. In fact the first two types are the most predominant.

 

HIJRAS AS SOCIAL OUTCASTS :THE ATTITUDE OF BANGLADESHI PEOPLE TOWARDS THE HIJRAS

 

For most Bangladeshis Hijras are ‘diabolic creatures’ a fount of diurnal disgust and perennial fear (15). They are looked at as hapless chimeras bereft of sexual potency. This is evident from the way the word ‘Hijra’ is used in the day -to- day conversations of people. The word Hijra is often found being used to disparage people. The very utteranceof the word carries with it an obvious sense of denigration. Unlike India where Hijras are apotheosized by many, in Bangladesh they are a stigmatized, socially marginalized and economically impoverished people. Even the standard dictionaries in Bengalee define the term “Hijra ‘ in terms of the “politics of pleasure’ (16).

  

DYNAMICS OF HIJRA SOCIETY :AN ETHNOGRAPHIC EXPLORATION

 

Probably it wont be fallibilistic to style Hijras an ethnic minority. They are different not only in terms of anatomy but also in terms of language and culture. As an ethnic minority who have always been treated as a castaway by the mainstream, Hijras have developed an idiocyncratic lifestyle. Hijras are a community with a strong sense of social solidarity and comradery. Their difference from the mainstream society is well reflected in their idiocyncratic cultural practices. For centuries Hijras have retained these norms. Some of these distinctive traits of the Hijra society of Bangladesh are succinctly delineated below:

 

A) Hijras are found to speak a language that they term as ‘gupti or ulti vhasa’ (clandestine or arcane language).Though all the Hijras of Bangladesh speak Bengalee, they tend to communicate among themselves in that vernacular. However questions may spring as to whether the language they speak can be accorded the status of a language (17). This language is also spoken by the Hijras of India with little dialectal variations.

Most Hijras tend not to admit the existence of such a language to a non-hijra. However they are often found to resort to that tongue in the presence of outsiders.

This language is intended to inhibit the outsiders from fathoming their internal matters. This is also a manifestation of and resistance to the sexualized linguistic structures of Bengalee, Hindi and Urdu. Thus Hijras have their own vocabulary to designate different categories of the mainstream society. This ‘arcane language’ reflects vintage Hijra kinship patterns, belief systems, attitude towards the outsiders and their worldview.

B) Hijra kinship patterns and terminology revolve around feminine roles. This is redolent of their explicit desire to identify themselves as females. When a person is initiated into the Hijra society, they are always renamed and given female names. Thus Hijra language has Hijra substitutes for words like mother (ma), sister (gothia), grandma (nanguru). Though they have words to describe male characters like( chodda- aged man), (young male -tonna), (male lovers- parik), (hooligan-bila), (police-dengu), there is no male role  inside the Hijra familial and social structure.

C) There is a hierarchical guru-disciple structure in the Hijra society. Each band has its own guru. And gurus also have gurus above them. Though there is no single topmost dictatorial guru among them, some of the oldest Hijras are the head gurus.

A Hijra becomes a guru on the basis of age, seniority (counted from the date of initiation into a band), wisdom and one’s ability to lead and troubleshoot.

Gurus are highly venerated by the hijras. When a guru grows infirm the disciples do not let the gurus work and provide psychological and pecuniary buttress to them.

D) Though the Hijra society of Bangladesh is split into many bands, there is a high degree of cohesion and coordination amongst them. One instance of their mutuality of understanding is evident from the way Hijras of a particular neighborhood keep themselves restricted to a designated locale for the collection of alms. No hijra band would ever transgress that boundary to ask for alms. Any infringement of this law is punishable by Hijra court. They are also an extremely hospitable society.  When Hijras of one area visit another Hijra community, they are lavishly treated.

Hijras of Bangladesh also have a very chummy alliance with the Hijras of India. Every year a huge number of Hijras travel to India to meet their ‘gothias’. During their stay they are said to be wined and dined by their ‘gothias’. Hijras of India also visit Bangladesh on a regular basis.

E) Hijras have a well-defined code of conduct in accordance with which Hijras ought to behave. Any breach of behavioral code is amenable to stringent penalty. Perpetrators are at best fined with payment or at worst excommunicated from the bands.

Arbitration is officiated by a Hijra guru Monu in Dhamrail of savar, an area situated on the outskirt of Dhaka. Whenever an arbitration takes place , Hijras from all over Bangladesh and India gather and contribute financially to the undertaking of  the arbitration. Likewise Hijras of Bangladesh also go to India to take part in arbitration. Like cards that we distribute to invite guests to a party, Hijras distribute capsicum to invite Hijras to attend the arbitration or any special meeting.

F) Hijras of Bangladesh are a highly religious community. Most of them perform religious rites on a regular basis. Hijras who manage to grow opulent often go for pilgrimage (haj). Though in reality owing to pecuniary difficulty very few manage to make it. Unlike what it is the case in Bangladesh many muslim Hijras of India often go for pilgrimage.

G) Initiation into a Hijra group is subjected to a hairsplitting scrutiny of the persons willing to enter the groups. Especially when a Jenana(male Hijra) wants to join a group, the Jenana is kept under constant vigilance during which attempts are made to figure out  as to whether the Jenana feels any attraction towards women. Only when the group is sure about the Jenana’s sexlessness, would a Jenana be included into the group.

Usually the guru of a group purifies a space on the floor of a room and put the Jenana on that ‘purified space’ and touch the head of the person and drop a piece of sweet into hir mouth to end the initiation.

Such initiation rite is usually performed in the presence of other members of the groups and gurus of other groups. After the initiation, the Hijras bless the newcomer with cash. H) Hijras are an easily identifiable people because of their idiocyncratic style of adornment. Most Hijras are attired in flamboyant outfit with gaudy makeup in public. They tend to keep long hair and stroll in a blatant and eye-dazzling vein.

Because hijras have feminine minds, they maintain, they dress up like that. Though in actuality women are not found to be donned in such attires.

Hijras also have a very distinct style of clapping. A Hijra can detect from the sound of a clapping that other Hijras are around. Besides when Hijras interact with each other only gurus are entitled to clap. Violator of this norm is instantaneously fined.

 

HIJRAHOOD: AN ECONOMIC NECESSITY

 

Hijras in Bangladesh drag a dire existence being unable to eke out a minimal living. Most Hijras are found to live in dilapidated shanties. Hijra livelihood revolves around singing, dancing begging and selling of sex. They work as entertainers in social gatherings and bewitch people to extract money from them.

Traditionally Hijras are summoned to render songs and perform dance at the domicile of a new-born child. When not asked, they drop in at the house of a newborn uninvited and dance with tomtom. They are also found to sing and dance at marriages and other social gatherings in exchange of dimes.

Hijras are also regular collector of alms from market places and shops. When denied or refused they coerce   the shopkeepers to hand in bucks. Such coercion sometimes amounts to a mild form of extortion.

Besides, Hijras work as sex workers. They are often found to sell their bodies to homosexual and bisexual males at a pretty cheap price. The frequency of selling sex is pretty high among the young Hijras as they work almost six days a week. Usually they throng at different designated places like parks in search of clients.

However, in recent times their demand as entertainers is on the wane. They are no longer called upon to celebrate the arrival of the new- born or perform at marital functions. Such declining popularity of them as entertainers has left them with no option but prostitution and begging. Previously singing and dancing supplemented their income quite substantially

   

In a socio-cultural context where Hijras are denied access to jobs, Hijras resort to singing and dancing to make their end’s meet. Besides, these livelihood strategies have been cascaded drown to the Hijras from their past generations of Hijra societies.

In fact, hijrahood has grown into a culture for these socially disadvantaged and ostracized people, a sort of an adaptive mechanism, a potential style of livelihood. Unlike the Hijras of India who are said to have a stable flow of income, the Hijras of Bangladesh earn pretty little as the popularity of such practice is mostly restricted to only lower middle class households of the bucolic areas.  

Interestingly unlike many other least advantaged groups Hijras are not found to have diversified their livelihood strategies. The unwillingness of the larger mainstream society to accept them as normal human also debarred the Hijras from seeking new sources of income. This is largely true of a typical Hijra community anywhere in Bangladesh. 

 

 THE POLITICS OF PLEASURE : IN NEED OF A DESEXUALIZED EPISTEME

 

In the last 50 years academe the world over has witnessed an explosion of feminist and queer scholarship. Though queer study and activism have surfaced only in the North American landscape, feminist study and action had been embraced in almost every nook and cranny of the globe.

Women’s almost universal secondary status to men led the feminists to explicate this dominant/subordinate relationship in terms of sexual politics (18), gendering, normative systems and social constructionism. Queer theoreticians, on the other hand, have responded to queer people’s marginality in terms of heterosexism and identity constructionism (19). In fact, central to queer problematization is denaturalization of the heterosexist procreative sexuality.

Whereas debunkery of the heterosexism through denaturalization of the monolithic notionality of sexuality provides the rationale for the queer theorists and activists, feminists call for an epistemic revamp of the phallocratic cognitive structure through questioning the very gendered processes of production of knowledge and value systems. Thus for feminists demasculinization of the episteme and the linguistic structure is a viable tool for achieving equality with men.

But within the epistemological matrix of the queer and feminist studies, there is virtually nothing left for the hijras who are marked by their asexuality and impotency.

Thus for the Hijras, desexualization of the epistemic as well as the linguistic structure should be the starting point.

The wide panoply of theorizations within the disciplinary matrix of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer studies have attempted to show how sexuality and pleasure have undergone the process of moralization over centuries (20). But very little attention has been paid to the way the sexually impotent Hijras have been excluded both at the social as well as at the epistemic level on the basis of a sexualized social and epistemic order. Even though many have worked on the hermaphrodites and their marginalisation, these studies have not brought forth the issues of the politics of pleasure which is the root cause of their marginality (21).                      

 

HIJRA SEXUALITY: A VICARIOUS EROTICISM

 

Hijras are marked by sexual impotency.Yet sexuality is at the heart of Hijra society. This is particularly evident from the presence of erotically loaded currencies in the Hijra vernacular (22). Apart from selling of their bodies to customers mostly males in exchange of dimes, they desire to gratify the sexual need of men who they woo. Most Hijras desire men. Many intend to have a permanent marital relationship with men. Many have had male friends with whom they have slept and stayed. But no such relationship lasts as men tend to relinquish them as they cannot procreate. Hijras claim they take care of men more than women do. They also assert that they can satiate a man’s sexuality more than a female is capable of.

Hijra sexuality centers around caressing, anal and oral sex. They are usually chosen by sodomites and bisexual men to be used as passive partners in anal sex. Despite their frequent involvement in sexuality they do not experience any sexual sensation, not even when they are caressed or penetrated. Participation in such passive sexualities, Hijras assert, brings only mental peace to their perennially agonized psyche. But the reasons for why doing this brings to them delight remains an unresolved question.

One probabilistic cause of it might be that they seek to derive a vicarious gratification out of their passive participation. As sexually impotent individuals they carry with them a sense of incompleteness (23). And it is that sense of incompleteness which drives them to go for vicarious eroticism.

 

STATE VIOLENCE AGAINST THE HIJRAS OF BANGLADESH:AN ACCOUNT OF STATE INACTION

 

Till date state has done nothing to drag the ‘Hijra community’ out of the abject condition into which they are enmeshed. Hijras are mostly illiterate, jobless and homeless. They have no stable flow of income. They can barely manage food for survival or see a good doctor for checkup. All these constraints have turned them into a ‘mendicancy squad’.

State has espoused no stride to ensure their sound and secured existence. Even state has no data available to them as to the exact number of visible Hijras in Bangladesh. Hijras have not been given suffrage as well. Though many Hijras are reported to have cast votes, they have done so either as males or as females, but they have not been registered as what they are.

State’s inaction has simply added to their sense of insecurity. And the fact that state has always brushed aside the Hijras is tantamount to violence. 

 

CIVIL SOCIETY VIOLENCE AGAINST THE HIJRAS: AN ACCOUNT OF TOP-DOWN INTERVENTION

 

For decades, civil society (24) activism in the development sector of Bangladesh has been quite tangible. Yet until recently no NGO’s undertook any activities to work for this marginalized community of outcast.

The raison de’tre for this abrupt focus on this ostracized community is predicated upon an explicitly taken-for-granted premise, i.e , Hijras are an at-risk people for contracting HIV & STD. The fact that the civil society activities are premised on that presupposition are pellucid from the bouts of actions they have ventured into.Currently two organizations named CARE and BONDHU are running HIV and STD-preventive programs for the Hijras. Both these organizations have set up drop-in-centers to provide the Hijras with information about safe sex. Interestingly none of these organizations has any data as to the number of Hijras living in Dhaka. Besides, these organizations are also not in a position to tell the number of the Hijras living in the areas these DICs are supposed to cover. BONDHU has two DICs in Dhaka whereas CARE has four DICs of which three are in Dhaka and one is in Rajshahi.

 

All these DICs revolve around STD management services which includes consciousness- raising about the causes of STD and HIV through discussion, training and meeting, selling of contraceptives at a cheap price especially condoms and counseling on safe sex.

 

IDENTIFICATION OF THE IMPACTS OF THE DICS:

 

A) These organizations have generated   temporal employments for the Hijras by directly employing Hijras as out-reach officers of these DIC’s. However, the amount of salaries the employees are drawing could not be confirmed as those employed and the authorities concerned declined to divulge.

B) Though the DICs have a statistical list of the number of the Hijras securing medical services from them, many of the enlisted beneficiaries do not exist in reality. Besides, most of the beneficiaries I interviewed denied being benefited.

C) Though CARE DICs focus on socio- economic uplift at least in black and white none of these DIC’s has any program for the uplift of their socio-economic status. Though in the DIC’s of CARE educational program is run, these programs are purely restricted to building of literacy so that the beneficiaries can sign in their names in the register of the DIC’s which will work as an emblem of the services DICs are providing. Interestingly none of the beneficiaries I interviewed turned out to be literate.

 

IMPACT OF THE CIVIL SOCIETY INTERVENTION ON THE HIJRA COMMUNITY:

 

A) Though the civil society intervention has generated temporal employments for some hijras(The total number of Hijras CARE employed is not more than 6), it has issued in a fresh resentment in the highly integrated Hijra community. Monu Hijra, arguably the leader of the Hijra community of Dhaka expressed her resentment with the way some of the Hijras are profiting by these employments. She looks at these employments as a threat to the traditional way of Hijra livelihood. Megna, a Hijra guru in Lalbagh pointed out that these employments have not put the Hijras on an equal scaffold with other denizens of the country. She also claims that these organizations are using the Hijras as mere handmaiden to grab benefits. Anoter Hijra named Mousumi told me that there is no reason for them to profit by these drop-in-centers as most of her sisters are off prostitution.

B) The sudden ‘medical interest’ in the ‘Hijra society’ has spread a notion among the masses that Hijras are sexual perverts needing rectification. It has simply added to their perennial sense of vulnerability and insecurity. Resentment with this ‘vested medical interest’ in the ‘Hijra society’ has been registered by many Hijras including Shomnath Bondhopadhay who in her book blabbed out her reactions to this AIDS-focused spotlight on them (25).

Bijlee, a Hijra of Hazaribagh pointed out to me that most Hijras sell sex to supplement their livelihood. Though many of them don’t like trading sex, they are forced to do it owing to pecuniary difficulty.

In the light of these facts, it is abundantly translucent that the intervention of the civil society has been a lop-sided and top-down enterprise. Mere supplying of ‘safe sex’ services amounts to countenancing them to keep on doing what many of them have already been doing out of extreme helplessness. More important it is an irony of its highest order that people who are marked by their sexlessness has come to be styled as a ‘high-risk targeted population’ for diseases mostly associated with sexuality.

Civil society has simply ruled out the possibility of elevating them to the status of a human. Though they have programs to impart knowledge about ‘safe sex’, they have espoused no plan to give them education. Nor have they adopted any program to skirmish for their social rights or to ameliorate their housing and sanitary conditions. Let alone decimating the pale of untouchability within which they are mired.  

 

A QUEST FOR A SECURED LIFE: HIJRAS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.

 

This part of the paper will sum up the issues Hijras deem momentous for the uplift of their community. Following are their voices in a nutshell:

A) To procreate employment opportunities.

B) To ensure their access to education.

C) To create housing facilities.

D) To vouchsafe them the status of a human.

E) To ensure medical facilities.

One thing merits special attention vis-a-vis the aforesaid points. Though Hijras want social rights accorded to others denizens, they don’t want these rights at the cost of their ethnicity, rituals and the internal workings of their society.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

 

1) State should immediately launch a survey to determine the exact number of Hijras living within the Hijra communities of Bangladesh

2) State should set up school to provide them with at least free primary education initially.

3) State should generate employment opportunities to provide the Hijras with better options of livelihood.

4) State should immediately take up actions to enfranchise the Hijras

5) State should espouse an immediate stride to supply medical services to them

6) State should arrange housing facilities for them

7) As long as state cannot ensure these facilities, it should provide them with ration-money.

8) NGO’s should immediately redefine their perspective and attitude towards the Hijras and embark on actions accordingly. Rather than regarding them as a high-risk community for AIDS, they should broaden their focus and address the issues of education, employment, health and housing for them.

9) Both state and NGOs should take up plans to alter the mistaken perceptions mass harbor about the Hijras

 

A NOTE ON METHODOLOGY:

 

Throughout this paper I have attempted to understand Hijras as they understand themselves. Whatever facts I have therefore incorporated about the Hijras of Bangladesh are facts that I managed to obtain from the Hijras I hobnobbed with. The facts I cited under the rubric of the ‘civil society violence against the Hijras : An account of top-down intervention’ are also gleaned from many of the beneficiaries as well as the officials concerned.

 

  

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

 

Despite my protracted interest in the queer studies and the transgender, the idea to produce a terse yet holistic portraiture on the Hijras of Bangladesh did not sprout in my cerebral cortex until I was told by Dr. Binayek Sen to undertake this task. I therefore recognize with gratitude the benign proposal he gave to me. Without his benevolence I would not have been able to round it off. I also acknowledge the assistance I received from Shipon and Mukti who were my constant companions during many of my fieldworks and stay in the hijra community. I am also infinitely grateful to Megna , a Hijra guru without whose succor and co-operation I would not have been able to have access to Hijra families and countless number of Hijras. I also acknowledge the contribution of my father and mother who supplied me with financial buttress during my field trips. Last but not the least I acknowledge the constant psychological support Shamraggee provided me with from the very ab initio to the fagend.Without her lenient support and inspiring tone this paper would not reached the stage it has reached to.

.

 

NOTES:

 

(1) Deconstructive readings of Plato’s texts reveal two such prostitute philosophers, Diotima and Aspasia, who numbered among sophistic philosophers. See for a detailed analysis ‘Reading, writing and rewriting the prostitute body’ by Shannon Bell.P.19-39. Indiana university press.1994

 

(2) Ibid, P120-123.Please note that Shannon Bell identifies herself as a postmodern prostitute (hetaira). Bell teaches classical political theory, feminist and postmodern theory. She received her Ph.D in political science from York University.

 

(3) The phasing in of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender courses in the North American universities reflects this burgeoning academic interest. See the website of John G .Younger on LGBT to get a detailed account of the courses introduced and research organizations and queer publications.

 

(4) See the course contents of the LGBT studies of the universities of Canada and USA. Very few studies have been done on hermaphrodites relative to the wide flurry of publications available on lesbian and gay issues.

 

(5) See for a hairsplitting analysis “hermaphrodites and the medical invention of sex ‘ by Alice Domurat Dreger. Harvard university press.1998

 

(6) I have chosen to call the flurry of activities revolving around the processes of sex-assignment ‘medico-colonization’. Like what colonizers did in the colony, the medical practitioners took the hermaphroditic bodies as a playing ground and subjected it to crude experimentation without the consent of the persons concerned.

 

(7) See the website of ‘Intersex society of North America’.See the chapters on genital mutilation and other congruent pages.

 

(8) See the article ‘Hijras as neither man nor woman’ by Serena Nanda, published in the book ‘Lesbian and Gay studies reader’ by Henry Avelove(et al), Routledge,1993

 

(9) See chapter one of the book ‘Hermaphrodieties:The Transgender Spirtuality Workbook’ by Raven Kaldera. Xlibris corporation, 2001

 

(10) I have chosen to use ‘HIR’ in lieu of her or him to refer to the hermaphrodites. I first learned it from the book by Raven Kaldera.(already cited in note number 9).The absence of a sex-neutral pronoun in English reflects the sexualized structure of the English language.

 

(11) See the websites:info@isna.org and  help@jaxnet.com

 

(12) Shabnam Mausi, a hijra was elected a legislator in Madhya Pradesh on march, 2000. Besides, Hijras are an established presence in Madhya Pradesh’s political system, with two mayors, one legislator and three business executives. Hijras in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are to launch a national political party with memberships open to all sexes.

 

(13) See chapter 18 of the book “Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, history and literature” by Stephen O. Murray (et al). New York university press.1997

 

(14) An increasing number of activists as well as scholars now tend to use ‘transgender’ to encompass eunuchs, transvestites, transsexual and hermaphrodites.See the website-http://www.symposion.com/ijt/ijtintro.htm of the International journal of Transgenderism.

 

(15) A number of unpublished attitude surveys by Robin Sardar substantiate this generalizations.

 

(16) See for example the Bengalee to Bengalee dictionary of Bangla Academy “Bangla Academy shonkhipto Bangla Ovhidan” which defines the word hijra in terms of sexual impotency (politics of pleasure). Edited by Ahmed Sharif,Bangla Academy, 1992

(17) Till date no research has been done on the ‘Hijra language’.  However I am striving to compile a dictionary on the ‘Hijra language’.

 

(18) Feminists do not look at ‘sexual politics’ in terms of the ‘politics of pleasure’. Sexual politics, for them, refers to the processes of gendering which results in woman’s being rendered into a second sex. See also ‘The Second Sex ‘ by Simone De Beauvoir, translated by H.M.Parshley.Picador.1988

 

(19) See the book ‘Queer Theory: An introduction’ by Annamarie Jagose, New York University press.1996

 

(20) See the ‘history of sexuality’volume -2 by Michel Foucault, translated from French by Robert Hurley. Vintage Books, 1990

 

(21) See for example the book ‘Neither man Nor Woman : The Hijras of India’ by Serena Nanda.NewYork.1988.This is probably the only well-researched book written on the Hijras from an anthropological vista.

 

(22) The frequent utterance of the words describing sexuality and sexual organ reflects the presence of erotic terminologies. Hijra language is saturated with amatory contents. Niklee-bust, Chiptee-female genitalia, Likam-phallus, Butlee-butt are some of the examples among many. Besides their gestures and postures contain explicitly amorous resonance. 

 

(23) This sense of incompleteness results from the process of sexualization (politics of pleasure) of socialization.

 

(24) I have used the term ‘civil society ‘ to denote NGO which, I believe, over the last 30 years has grown into a representative of the civil society.

 

(25) Shomnath Bondhopadhay is the only Hijra writer to write a book in Bengalee. Currently she is doing her P,hD in Jadobpur University of India on Third Sex. See the book ‘Antohin Antorin Proshitovortika’ by Shomnath. Papyrus, Kolkata.2002 

 

 

 

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