The third sex as they are referred to are often looked upon with much curiosity due to their non-confirmative nature, oft found stuck in a physical body which is alien to them. The transgender community in India and Delhi broadly includes transvestites, cross dressers, hermaphrodites and hijras (eunuchs).
Let us enter the mysterious world of the transgender community in Delhi and learn how they live and get by in the city.
If you want to learn more about transgenders, then visit the Trans Yamuna shanties and slums. This is where most of them live with other marginalized and less privileged groups. Delhi being a mega city has a sizeable population of transgenders with some estimate putting them at a few lakhs. There is one particular entertainment centre cum club just for them in Bhajanpura in East Delhi - The Zeenat Club which is exclusively for Hijras but is off limits to bisexuals and gays. It is run by an NGO called SPACE - the Society for People’s Awareness, Care and Empowerment. The club activities include self-grooming, health checkups and sale of clothes at discounted prices.
Have you ever seen any Hijras employed in an office, factory or where people usually work? No, because they aren’t in the mainstream and neither is their work. They have always, as far as recorded history is concerned, made a living by singing and dancing or as sex workers. You can’t easily escape a group of transgenders or hijras on the occasion of a male childbirth or during a wedding.
They will descend to such houses, out of nowhere and start their uninhibited song and dance with suggestive postures and double meanings. Their blessings bestowed on the child and mother is considered to be very auspicious and offending them or insulting them is supposed to bring ill luck. In return for their blessings, on the marriage or childbirth in a house, they are given cash and kind and sometimes precious jewellery, depending on the financial strength of the blessed.
It is hard to believe but true that many straight and normal householders, who also have families, engage in physical relationships with the transgender community. For majority this is the only way they can survive and live. There are instances of transgender marriages with a regular male or with another transgender, of course without any legal validity.
Transgenders belong to both the Hindu and Muslim community however they are a lot more secular than others. Bahuchara Mata is the goddess they worship throughout the country and a temple dedicated to her in Gujarat is a pilgrimage for transgenders. The hijras follow the dictates of their Guru who happens to be their friend, philosopher and guide and their seat or gaddi is passed to another when the Guru dies. Even the Nirwaan or castration ceremony is performed by the guru, in which the male genitals are removed with a sharp knife.
With very little government and societal support, lack of basic education and family backing, the transgender community in the 21st century is unfortunately still unnoticed, unheard and uncared for.