Third Gender in India
Hijra is the third gender in India
If you once notice on the street of one or another Indian city a group of brightly painted male dancers in women’s clothing, you will most likely mistake them for artists… and you will be wrong. In most cases, such men have nothing to do with art, but belong to a special caste, whose representatives are officially called persons of the third gender.
Hijras are the name given to such non-men and non-women in India, and they belong to a caste that is even lower than the world-famous untouchables. This mysterious and taboo caste includes not only castrated and painted dancers like clowns, but also natural hermaphrodites, transgenders and transsexuals, as well as representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation and even those who simply dress up in women’s dresses. In addition, the wives and daughters of those hijras who can still have children belong to the caste.
The future of a person born into this caste is predetermined from early childhood. A hijra-born cannot demand a different destiny for himself. In addition, children born with anomalies in the development of the genitals are sent to hijras. Often even boys who are considered too handsome for their gender become hijras.
There are rumors that this mysterious caste maintains its numbers in much more terrible ways. For example, hijras buy children from poor peasants, and sometimes they simply steal them. Of course, no researchers can find the truth in this matter, but the dark gossip around the hijra caste seems too plausible.
Roughly speaking, he takes it and chops it off, and without any anesthesia. It is forbidden to stop the bleeding after this monstrous procedure – everything must heal naturally. If a person survived, he was accepted into the community. Well, the fact that hijras were deprived of their male dignity, alas, did not make them full-fledged women. And, of course, they had not heard anything about hormone therapy.
Hijras earn their living by ritual dances. The style and skills of individual dancers depend on the clan to which they belong. There are many sophisticated hijras whose dances can undoubtedly be considered art. However, there are also plenty of those who are simply painted beggars in women’s clothing. Hijras, as a rule, move in small groups and warn others about their appearance in advance by loud clapping of their palms.
Such sounds are a signal that people of the third gender are approaching, which means that the likelihood of parting with your money increases. It is believed that for a small donation, a hijra is able to both bless a person by laying hands on his head and grant him fertility, and curse him – to make a person infertile. And even people who are skeptical about all kinds of superstitions prefer to pay off hijras with small sums.
Indians believe that hijras are the descendants of harem eunuchs who served Muslim rulers and were later expelled from the court. Once on the street, castrati, unadapted to real life, found themselves at the very bottom of society. Those of them who managed to survive put local beliefs at their service, and the eunuchs found heirs by ransoming handicapped children from their relatives for a pittance.
According to unconfirmed information, there are about a million hijras in India today, and it seems that their lives are easy and carefree. Well, what’s so complicated about it: walk along the streets, clap your hands and collect coins for it. But not every hijra wants to exist in this way. Many would be happy to give up both dancing and begging, but they simply cannot, since it is impossible to stop being a hijra. Just as it is impossible to change one’s caste.
The government is believed to favor hijras by allowing them to officially be identified as a third gender. But, in fact, hijra is nothing more than a real stigma… and an indelible one.