Every time I observe the hijras (eunuchs) come by the bakery (with a very British name, McRennet) near my office, I feel uncomfortable. I am strangely fascinated by them*. They use their trademark clapping style to announce their arrival. The exaggerated swing of their slim hips, the straight unsmiling faces, their flashy saris, their elevated bouffants or long braids, their loud manners, their cuss words are all foreign to me. Added to it, is the persistent fear of being harmed. It’s social conditioning, I am aware and yet so deep and entrenchant that even though my rational mind screams there is no reason to be afraid, a strange panic grips me. Unsure of how to react and having observed people staring at them (a total no no in my dictionary), I behave as normally as I possibly can even though I am intensely aware of their presence. I have seen men ogle, flinch, flirt, laugh, or even jump out of the way. (What is it that prompts such extreme reactions?) I just don’t catch their eye. It’s almost as if I am ashamed that I am that which they aspire to be, a woman both from inside and outside. I am lucky that my body is in harmony with my mind. And my conflicts are not played out on my body but in my mind. They, on the other hand, seem to be caught in a strange no man/woman’s land. Sexual identity is such an integral part of our psyche and a duality such as male/female has been such a staple of the collective consciousness that a third non conformist gender seems to have no space at all. So much so that if one of the third gender hosts a talk show, or becomes a famous Bharatanatyam dancer, or wins an election, immediately it’s news. Sometimes, the only space they seem to have is the space in the media.
* The use of I/they throughout the post is not to show difference or indicate a polarization but for reference.