Non-hijra transgenders struggle for identity

By Gee Ameena Suleiman

Hijra isn’t the only transgender identity. There are others, such as female-to-male transgenders, who don’t draw attention to themselves, and struggle to find recognition as anything but a ‘deviant’ community, writes Gee Ameena Suleiman.

There are several transgender identities that exist in South India. There are the female to male transgender identities ofThirunambigal in Tamil Nadu, Magaraidu in Andhra Pradesh and Gandabasaka in Karnataka. Then there are male to female identities such as the kothihijra (also calledAravanis and Thirunangaigal in Tamil Nadu), Jogappa in Northern Karnataka, Jogatha in Andhra Pradesh and Shiva Shakti in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

Not all of these various identities are as well known as the hijra identity which has become societally synonymous with transgender identity. This is mainly because of the historic visibility of this community which has self-organised a cultural and social space through a Guru-Chela system. This acts as a support to a lot of young hijras/kothis who leave their homes and join one of the seven Gharanas as ‘daughters’ or ‘chelas’ under their gurus. The hijra/kothi can often be seen at traffic lights carrying out their “basticollections” — one of the few occupations this community has struggled to provide for itself in a hostile and discriminatory society.

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