In modern India, the one community that is grossly misunderstood and inhumanly exploited is the Transgender community. Known as Hijras or Kinnars in Hindi, they form an indispensable part of our society, yet remain shunned and marginalized for no fault of their own.
Transgenders live in organized communities, comprising males who believe themselves to be females. Contrary to popular belief, the Kinnar community is not made up of only one kind of individuals. It is made up of :
Hermaphrodites – men with genital defects, i.e. incomplete male sexual organs or presence of both male and female sexual organs
Transsexuals – men who identify as women
Eunuchs– castrated men
Transvestites– men who dress as women
At the base of this tightly-knit community lies the Guru-Chela tradition – the Guru guides his disciple through all aspects of life and the Chela remains indebted to his Guru.
The transgender has been an integral part of our society since ancient times. Be it on the battlefield as commanders and soldiers, or in the harems of the kings as caretakers, they have had a variety of roles to play.
Nothing reeks of hypocrisy more than how our society treats them. On one hand, their presence is considered auspicious during the birth and naming ceremonies of babies, where they are invited to give their blessings. On the other hand, they are ostracised socially and more often than not, sexually exploited. They are forced to resort to begging and prostitution to eke out a living and make ends meet.
Why is so much shame attached to them, when they find mention in one of our most revered scriptures, the Mahabharata? Arjuna himself was a eunuch at one point in time in his life, as Brihanalla. Spurned by Pitamah Bhishma, Amba reincarnated as Shikhandini, who later became Shikhandi and fought in the Kurukshetra war alongside Lord Krishna and the Pandavas.
The transgender community today is slowly but surely finding it’s foothold in the mainstream and taking baby steps towards reintegrating in the society, thanks to the self-help group, help from the government, and their own untiring hard work and determination.
K. Prithika Yashini is India’s first transgender police officer, appointed in Tamil Nadu.
Padmini Prakash is India’s first transgender television anchor, with her own prime-time show in a south Indian channel.
Madhu Kinnar became India’s first transgender Mayor, having won the seat from Raigarh, Chhattisgarh.
Manabi Bandyopadhyay is the first transgender to earn a Ph.D. degree and was also the first transgender to become the principal of a college. She is currently the principal of Krishnagar Women’s College.
We are a free country, free in all aspects, no longer under the British or Mughal rule. The Victorian and Islamist ideas of sexuality are obsolete and are just not applicable anymore. The Sanatan Dharma preaches love and equality for all. It is high time that we as a society re-evaluate our mindset and modify our approach towards the transgenders. We have a long, long way to go towards removing the stigma attached to them and giving them their rightful place in the society.