There has recently been some news out of India on the gender variance front. I realize that foreign news often holds little interest for many folks...but the battle for gender freedom is a worldwide struggle.
Divanee is a site covering South Asian news and entertainment. Recently the site published an interesting feature: How South Asians see us.
Supporters of the LGBT community recently celebrated victories in the states of Washington and Maryland, as same-sex marriages became legal. Advocates in New Hampshire are anxiously waiting to see if a similar, and now two-year-old law, will soon be repealed. And most recently, New Jersey’s legislative body passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages, with a 42-33 vote, but within a short week New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, true to his personal vow, vetoed the bill–thus guaranteeing the debate would continue.
If this is the situation in the country that stands for “liberty and justice for all”–a Western nation that for so long others have admired and emulated–one might be surprised to know that the Eastern nations of Pakistan and India have been quickly striding forward to cross the lines of gender inequity, leaving America in their tracks.
--Sabeen H. Ahmad, social media editor, Divanee
Ahmad clearly has an agenda. Let's see where it leads.
First Ahmad mentions that in November, 2011 the Pakistani High Court declared that transgender people have the right to affirmative action and the right to vote.
Response: On the one hand, we still mostly have the right to vote in this country, even if the Voter ID laws recently enacted in several states might make it more dangerous for us to do so. On the other, we are still struggling to even consider an employment rights bill in this country.
Then Ahmad indulges in a history lesson:
Centuries ago, transgenders, or hijras (the equivalent of ‘eunuchs’), were welcome figures in the palaces of the Mogul Empire as entertainers and even guards in the palace harems. To this day, they are often seen popping into weddings in Pakistan and India to wish newlyweds luck and, in most cases, receive a small payment for doing so. However, as with the homosexual community of ancient Rome, hijras soon became the hallmark of religious transgression and were–and often continue to be–scorned in modern-day society.Response: To be fair to Americans, two-spirit native peoples in North America used to be honored in their communities and thought to be a sign of good fortune, but that was before the Europeans arrived and let loose the dogs on us, literally and figuratively.
Ahmad sees the addition of another check-box to the male/female boxes on national ID documents to be an improvement.
In this society, there would not be universal agreement in the trans community that this would be a good thing. Some would like it. Some would see it as further Othering us.
There is one thing they do have in India that we do not have in the US. Or perhaps the right phrase is, "one thing they are about to have".
Rose Venkatesan is a transgender celebrity in India. She has hosted a television talk show, Ippadikku Rose (Yours truly, Rose), on Vijay TV out of Tamil Nadu, which later was renamed Idhu Rose Neram (This is Rose Time) when it moved to Kalaignar TV, a Tamil language satellite channel.
The talk show deals with current affairs touching a wide variety of social issues including traditions, taboos, rebels and culture.In 2010 she switched over to a radio show, Rosudan Pesungal (Talk with Rose).
There is video of the first anniversary of her sex-change surgery here.
She also dabbles in music:
I have decided to call it Sexual Liberation Party of India.Rose intends to challenge the institutions of caste and religion on the subjects of sex and love.
It is not just for transgenders, I plan to talk for sexual liberation of all human beings across the country.
But individuals are restrained from aesthetically expressing such feelings in the name of God, caste and religion. They call it unnatural, but, to me, what is really unnatural is asking human beings to restrain their emotions. I respect their feelings to be faithful to their caste or religion. Let me be, to myRose is anti-marriage, calling it 'a failed institution' and calling for women ‘to be liberated from the institution which persecutes them if they explore their primitive emotions’.
Concerning Section 377, the Indian morality laws, Rose has this to say:
Morality is but a veil to the intentions of these people to protect patriarchy, caste and religion.Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was introduced during British rule and criminalizes sexual activity "against the order of nature". Same-sex behavior was removed from the section by the Delhi High Court in July, 2009. The court is currently revisiting that decision.
Rose believes it will take some time to gather like-minded individuals, planning to form the party after having done so and holding a general council meeting. First she is busy at work drafting a constitution and policy.
I want to shock them first. But, after that, they will probably realise that I am speaking the truth. I am just being brutally honest.I know the following video starts out in another language, but Rose speaks in English beginning around 0:26.