They’ve been insulted, forced into prostitution and discriminated against for decades, but now India’s hijra are coming up. At Dayanand Anglo Vedic Convent School, six feet tall and clad in a stiff Nehru jacket over a yellow silk sari, Madhu Kinnar brought a grand, ceremonious air. The school’s director introduced her to the students, honoured her with garlands and then ushered her to a set of hurriedly placed plastic chairs to observe the school dance competition. Every few minutes, a young boy or girl would turn around to stare at her in fascination. Madhu is a hijra (or kinnar as they’re known in parts of Chhattisgarh and north India), a transgender woman. The hijra community is largely discriminated against throughout the country. In Raigarh, however, Madhu occupies celebrity status. On 5 January, the voters of Raigarh – population 137,097 – elected the 35-year-old Madhu as India’s only transgender mayor. Most hijras are transgender women born male but who identify as women or “in-between”. Usually shunned by their families or mistaken for eunuchs, transgender Indians often join the hijra community – a relatively organized, hierarchical system in which new members follow their reet (tradition) of becoming a chela (disciple) to an elder hijra guru to learn the ways of navigating society on the fringes. These customs include begging for alms and singing and dancing at weddings and births for luck. The sad part about this is that if you look at the history of the hijras in India. The turning from male to female so to speak had nothing to do with wanting to become a woman, but it had to do with taking away all sexual desires in order to perform the work they do. They used to be praised and looked at as good luck at weddings and all other typres of events. When india became more westernized is when I believe the respect for the hijras diminished. So from Madhu to be a transgender major speak volumes for a country like India that the hijras who were once looked at symbol of good lick now has been forced to beg among other things and cannot support themselves. This is a start to a long road.
Tabitha McLaughlin, mar 29, 2015, 9:40pm,