FAQsThe below FAQs section will help you gain knowledge and insights about the transgender community in India. However, there is a possibility that we could not do justice to your quest for more.
If the answers you are seeking are not in the FAQs then please have a look at our listing of reading materials mentioned below. These are some of the latest informative reads that will give you a complete picture of the transgender community’s life in India.
Still looking for more? Worry not! We are soon going to launch our Ask & Beyond service, which will help you gain further knowledge about the trans community so that you can break the barriers that separate us and support us freely!
Frequently Asked Questions
Those individuals who are socially, legally and medically categorized as being either male or female, but who assert that this is not their self-identity and/or expression. Transgender people may or may not be intersex. It is a self-stated identity. Intersex persons: Those individuals who have atypical sex characteristics [anatomical, chromosomal, hormonal, etc.] that do not conform to the social, legal
Cisgender is a term used to describe people who are not transgender, those whose gender identity is aligned with the one they are assigned at birth.
Gender identity is a person’s internal, deeply held sense of their gender. For transgender people, their own internal gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Most people have a gender identity of man or woman (or boy or girl). For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two choices.
Gender expression is the external manifestations of gender, expressed through a person’s name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behaviour, voice, and/ or body characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine and feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture. Typically, transgender people seek to align their gender expression with their gender identity, rather than the
It is a gender identity that refers to a gender which varies over time. A gender fluid person may at any time identify as male, female, neutrois, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities. Their gender can also vary at random or vary in response to different circumstances. Gender fluid people may also identify as multigender, non-binary
Gender dysphoria is a conflict between the individual’s assigned gender and the gender with which the individual identifies. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association released the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) which replaced the outdated entry “Gender Identity Disorder” with Gender Dysphoria, and changed the criteria for diagnosis.
According to the 2014 NALSA judgement, hijras are biological males who reject their masculine identity and identify either as women, or “not men”, or “in-between man and woman” or “neither man nor woman”. However, intersex people are also a part of hijra gharanas. In India, hijras tend to identify as a community with its own initiation rituals and professions (like
Kinnar is the term for hijras in north India.
Aravani is the term for hijras in Tamil Nadu. The meaning of the term ‘Aravani’ literally means a person who worships Lord Aravan. It is an ethno-religious group.
The 2014 NALSA judgement describes kothis as a heterogeneous group, because it refers to cis men who show varying degrees of being effeminate. They prefer to take the feminine role in same-sex relationships, though many kothis are bisexual. Some hijras identify as kothi as well, while not all kothis identify as hijra or even transgender. They do not live in
Shiv-shakthis typically refer to a community of trans people in Andhra Pradesh who are ‘married to’ the gods, particularly Lord Shiva. They work typically as astrologers or spiritual healers. The ethno-religious group is guarded by gurus who induct disciples and train them for the work.
In Maharashtra and Karnataka, jogtas and jogtis refer to male and female servants who dedicate (or are made to dedicate) their lives to gods in different temples. They refer to male-to-female trans people who devote themselves to the service of a particular god. Shubha Chacko from Solidarity Foundation says that most Jogti/Jogtas and Jogappas do not identify as hijras. In
A transman is a man who was assigned female at birth. The label of transgender man is not always interchangeable with that of transsexual man, although the two labels are often used in this way. Many trans men choose to undergo surgical or hormonal transition, or both to alter their appearance in a way that aligns with their gender identity.
Yes. Trans people in India have a recorded history of nearly 4000 years.
In Indian mythology, trans people are found in various Hindu texts, such as the Mahabharata -Arjuna cross dressing as the teacher Brihannala, the change in Shikhandi’s gender, Ardhanarishvara as the androgynous composite form of Shiva and Parvati. In some versions of the Ramayana, there are references to King Ila who spent half of his life as a man and the
Yes. Transgender people were known to have played a role in the Ottoman Empire and Mughal empires in medieval India. They held important positions in court such as those of generals, administrators, and advisors. Many travelers have documented the elevated status of trans people in the Mughal empire, specifically in harem management. They also guarded the tomb of the Prophet
The British era Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 persecuted trans people and relegated them to the margins of society. The Act pronounced the entire community of Hijra persons as innately ‘criminal’ and ‘addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences’. The Act mandated the registration and surveillance of trans people, and they could be arrested without warrant, sentenced to imprisonment
The NALSA judgement or the National Legal Services Authority vs. Union of India judgment (2014) was a landmark judgment in the case of National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India and others was gamechanging for the transgender community. Not only did it mandate that a trans person be allowed to self-identify as the gender of their choice, but it
Following the NALSA judgment, there have been several versions of the bill proposed. The 2014 version was introduced by Tiruchi Siva, a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Rajya Sabha MP. It was passed in the Rajya Sabha, but it wasn’t introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment then drafted another version of the Bill in 2015. Many
In August 2017, the Supreme Court concluded that the right to one’s sexual orientation is at the core of the fundamental rights outlined in Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. Kothari (2017) writes that sexual orientation rights aren’t limited to LGB groups but inextricably linked to transgender and intersex persons as well. The Court also held that “The
In a landmark judgment on September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court read down Section 377 as a law that violated the dignity and privacy of the LGBTQ community. Among others, trans activists such as Akkai Padmashali and Uma Umesh petitioned against it, and The Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra pronounced Section 377 as “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary”. It
Yes. Despite this tumultuous legal scenario, there are trans people trailblazing and lending visibility in several walks of life in contemporary India. Lalit Salve from Maharashtra is a constable and trans man who fought for leave for his surgery. K Prithika Yashini from Tamil Nadu, is the first transwoman sub inspector in India. Swati Baruah is Assam’s first transgender Lokpal judge. Sathyasri Sharmila
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnatka, Odisha and Chattisgarh among others have implements schemes and programmes for transgender people.
Tamil Nadu is the first state in India to implement a transgender welfare board in 2008. They are called Aravani Welfare boards. However, it does not recognise trans men and a physical examination is required for the issue of ID cards. The state of Tamil Nadu offers free registration of lands and ration cards; soft loans to incentivise the establishment
Both Cochin and Trivandrum have welfare boards since 2017. They also included trans men, but their schemes are still in their initial phases. The state of Kerala also formed a state Transgender Cell for skilling and training; issues ID cards by a committee headed by the District Collector. This committee includes members from the community, The District Health Officer, the
Akkai Padmashali’s organisation ‘Ondede’ has joined hands with the Election Commission (EC) in conducting awareness programs for the transgender community. She says, “There are more than one lakh transgenders in the state and in this elections, more than 10,000 of them would be participating. We hope that this number increases in the coming years.” Karnataka also offers a pension scheme for
Odisha has issued BPL cards and free housing schemes; provided 100 days of paid work annually. Transgender people are entitles to 5kg of food grains under India’s National Food Security Act. It also offers pensions and loans to start up businesses.
In Chhattisgarh, eleven departments i.e. Health, Higher Education, Women & Child Development, Social Welfare, Technical Education, School Education, Home, Panchayat and Rural Development, Urban Development, Public Relations and General Administration have announced schemes or activities specifically for the community. Schools from class 8-10 have introduced chapters on what it means to be transgender in their curriculum, so as to sensitise
Ask and Know
Here are some recommendations for further reading and understanding of the transgender community, our challenges and legal struggles in India:
A Life in Trans Activism, A.Revathi as told to Nandini Murali
The Truth About Me: A Hijra Story, A. Revathi
A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi, Manabi BandyopadhyayMe Hijra, Me Laxmi, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
Criminal Love?: Queer Theory, Culture, and Politics in India, R Raj Rao
Queeristan: LGBTQ Inclusion in the Indian Workplace, Parmesh Shahani