By Teesta Dasgupta
India is a land of contradictions. Not very long ago they criminalized consensual sex between adults in same-sex relationships and faced censure. Then they took the momentous decision of recognizing the Third Gender as an integral part of society and got hailed. One type of discrimination continues while the other at least judicially has now received some much deserved attention. They take two steps forward and two steps back – procrastinating, haggling and negotiating over change. When I heard that the 2 million people in our country (now effectively recognized as the Third Gender) will by decree of the Supreme Court receive equal opportunity to ‘grow and attain their potential’ I was happy but a deeper look reveals how innately flawed the whole set up is. Those who identify as Third Gender will no longer be discriminated against for their identity but will continue to be based on their sexual preferences.
In any case, theirs will be a long walk to freedom- one which will be fraught with misunderstandings and chronic unawareness. Firstly because the Indian psyche has rarely shown any hint of growing and beginning to understand the fallacy that is gender binaries and secondly because homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality etc. are largely taboo in the Indian mind-set. When in the promotional of our much beloved Spiderman II franchise Andrew Garfield very blatantly referred to sewing as a feminine task as opposed to the masculinity that Spiderman oozes he got called by Emma Stone who asked ‘Why is it feminine?’. Garfield deflected the attack on his unconscious/ conscious sexist remark by stating that there is a little femininity in men and vice-versa and saved his neck but such a comment in India would be over-looked and cause only a handful to squirm uncomfortably in their seats.
The one thing that everyone is now curious about is – What is the Third Gender? What qualifies you as the Third Gender? And frankly speaking, there is no such thing as certainty in this matter. It is a grey area and I am sure that the Government will run into a number of road-blocks in their implementing of these policies. One group thinks that it refers to eunuchs. Other one is pretty sure it is directed at intersex people. Some want to go with the term hermaphrodites and a few big newspapers have reported that it certainly includes the transgender population of India. Now here is where it gets really confusing – all these terms though very different are being used synonymously. Let me further explain. Intersex people are those who possess organs not considered typically male or female. A eunuch is a man who has been castrated such that it has had major hormonal changes in his body. In certain cases, the term eunuch has been used to refer to those suffering from impotence or who are otherwise celibate. A transgender or transsexual person is someone who is anatomically male or female but faces some form of Gender Dysphoria or non-alignment to the gender of their birth. They feel as if they are trapped in the wrong body and choose to live their lives as the gender of their choice. Again, the footnote is the on-going argument as to who should be regarded as a transgender? Will it be people who have resorted to hormone therapy and gone under the knife for it? Will it refer to people who are transgender but due to lack of opportunity or by choice are still anatomically in the gender of their birth? There is also an entire group of people who identify as transgender*. Mind the asterisk ‘*’. This is an umbrella term for those who are more comfortable with being gender-fluid, gender-queer, gender-blind etc. Some Tumblr terms for them are ‘boi’ or ‘grrrl’ etc. The vast Indian majority is so tied up in labels that most might not ever have explored the gender spectrum and decided to find out what they are most comfortable identifying as.
Again that being said a persons’ gender is totally divorced from his/her sexuality. The two come together under many situations but are essentially different. A trans-male may be straight /gay/bisexual/pansexual/asexual and the same goes for trans-females. Infact, if I may be so bold to suggest – the Kinsey scale suggest everybody lies somewhere on the spectra from homosexual to heterosexual. A hard zero makes you completely straight and a hard six completely gay. Society may mould us to take up quite vehemently one of these stands but truth be told as Honey Boo Boo says ‘Everybody is a little gay’. Also further classification reveals that there are people who feel left out from all the labels mentioned above because of the nature of feeling they might experience. Our orientations are directed not only by our sexual preferences but also our romantic feelings. So you might identify as a homo-romantic hetero-sexual transgender person. To add to the list of identities is those of the rarely mentioned Autogynephiliacs and Autoandrophiliacs people, who are referred to as cross-dreamers.
To those who are entirely confident and comfortable of their gender labels – the revelation is far from over. All of us Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightly fans must remember the brilliant yet very controversial movie – ‘Dangerous Methods’. The lady portrayed by Knightly Sabina Spielrein was instrumental in the formation of Jung’s much hyped Anima-Animus Theory. She got no credit for it whatsoever. The Anima is the woman in a man and the Animus is the man in every woman. Great examples are Dante’s Beatrice or more recently Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars. These are archetypes that are supressed and underdeveloped but stubborn in their projections. Much of our personas are shaped by the accepting or the denying of the Anima/Animus and we barely recognize it. As such in the intellectual spheres, a certainty of any kind in these matters reveals a lack of exploration. So India might have it all down in laws and papers but really who is the Third Gender?
Teesta Dasgupta is an avid blogger, food-buff, incorrigible bibliophile and given to hair-splitting analysis of everything under the sun. She is finishing her degree at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and works part-time as a volunteer for a SWO (Siliguri Welfare organization) in her scenic hometown of Siliguri, Darjeeling. She swears by Oscar Wilde, Ayn Rand, Coldplay, The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) and pizza. Feel free to contact her at [email protected] or Twitter.