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Gender Bender April 30, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay & Lesbian, Sexuality & Gender, Transexual, Transgender.
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The latest Bips starrer Pankh is a movie based on gender confusion experienced by a male child artist who grows up playing female roles. While director Sudipto Chattopadhyay addresses a complicated phenomenon through this portrayal, such occurrences are not rare


Madonna’s scandalous on-stage lip-lock with Britney and Angelina Jolie’s girlfriend tales may’ve been a subject of shock and amusement, but gender confusion is a subject well beyond alternate sexual inclinations. While a lot of people tend to misunderstand the two phenomena, we clear the picture for you.  

Confusion kya hai?

Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is a condition in which a person has been assigned one gender, usually on the basis of their sex at birth, but does not conform with the gender role their society prescribes to them. He/she feels significant discomfort in coping with this.

Dealing with it

“One should consult a fully committed psychiatrist. It takes one to five sittings to determine the exact nature of the condition and it is then that hormonal manipulation and treatment begins,” says Dr S V Kotwal, GID specialist at Sitaram Bhartiya Institute.

Natural phenomenon

“In most cases, this is an inbuilt aberration since birth. Though a lot of genetic research has been conducted on the subject, it has only been found that the brain of certain individuals is designed that way,” explains Dr Kotwal. “Whatever the cause, it is absolutely natural and normal for these confusions to arise. A person undergoing anything like this should not press the panic button.

He should instead consult a counsellor in whom he will find comfort,” advises Betu, founder member of Sanginii, a Delhi-based NGO that creates and disseminates information on issues of sexuality and sexual rights.

Better understanding

“There is rising awareness of the existence of new sexual identities amidst us. Sex education in schools is the most important method by which we can change attitudes. I suggest courses such as ‘sex, sexuality and gender’, which Humsafar Trust conducts at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

These help clarify issues and open young minds to differences in sex, sexuality and gender, and the related conflicts that arise in a socio-economic setting,” says Dr Ashok Row Kavi, India’s first gay activist and UNAIDS worker.

Use these helplines:
Sanginii: 65676450
Naz Foundation: 26910499

Don’t mix them up!
» Crossdressers or Transvestites are         okay with their birth gender, but choose to dress up  and behave like the opposite gender
» Drag performers or Drag queens are individuals who dress up as and use the mannerisms of the opposite sex for the purpose of entertaining
» Transsexuals are born into one gender but identify emotionally and psychologically with the other
» Intersexed is someone who was born with ambiguous genitalia, so doctors assigned him/her a specific gender at birth. But as this person grows older, he/she might not necessarily identify with the pre-assigned gender and may want to switch
» Homosexuals or gays and lesbians are people who have a sexual preference for the same sex. They are happy with their gender


NGO reaches out to lesbian women in Gujarat April 29, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Lesbian, Television.
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Shai Venkatraman

Monday, April 28, 2008 (Gujarat)

As one travels from urban to rural India, the voices change. They become wary, muted and afraid.

But that’s not without reason. In a town in Gujarat, a group whose identity is virtually a secret, reaches out to each other only through undercover meetings.

Parma is a group that works with the sexually marginalized in Gujarat.

Parma was formed in 2004 in an attempt to reach out to lesbian women in rural Gujarat in adivasi villages and Muslim communities.

The idea was to create a safe space where women could meet.
”The drawback where I come from in Europe is that people no longer believe in love. In India you have stories of two girls in villages running away with each other. Here it’s different. In India love is still simple and pure between same sex partners,” said David, Research Scholar.

Creating a safe space in a state, severely polarised after the 2002 riots is not just difficult but dangerous.

So, Parma works undercover as part of a larger NGO working on developmental issues. Their meetings are held in secret inside a building in a town in Gujarat.

Even their existence is known only to group members who are spread across villages and towns.

In official records Parma does not even exist.

”We work under great pressure. There is such stigma around this kind of love. And since the riots the divide between Hindus and Muslims has widened and we have to find ways to reach out to women within that situation,” said a member of Parma.

”There is no support for such relationships so we do face great pressure. But through the group we are able to support and help each other,” added the Parma member.

It’s the kind of support they do not get from a world, which sees them only through newspaper reports as ‘the other’.

But there is the same love, anger, tears and hope.

”This is the time for us to speak up about our rights. Otherwise we will always be suppressed,” said Mala, Auto Workshop Supervisor.

”It’s about the world being able to see that diverse people have always existed. It’s because they are not able to see that they turn around and say, ”You mean this happens? We thought it does not happen in villages”.
Then they think about it and say it’s but natural,” said Maya Sharma, author.

Thus, a virtual world that does not exist for you and me lives on through groups like Parma.

Lesbians forced to live in anonymity in India April 29, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Lesbian, Television.
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Shai Venkatraman

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 (New Delhi)

In the US, lesbian talk show host Ellen Degenres created history as the country’s topmost television star.

But in India, in Tamil Nadu, transgender athlete Shanthi attempted suicide because she was constantly humiliated about her sexuality.

In a more progressive Kerala, lesbian suicides continue to be on the rise but their police still write them off as ordinary deaths. To this day, sexual minorities in India, especially women are outcastes, shunned by
society even their own families.

In the anonymity of our cities, they still find spaces to blend in. But in rural India, coming out means violence, brutality and even death.

Travelling from Gujarat to Karnataka NDTV heard stories of transgenders, bisexuals and lesbians – some visible, most invisible.

Julie met Rekha when she was thirteen years old. Both of them belong to lower middle class families of a village in Kerala. They were classmates and good friends.

Over the years their relationship grew stronger. What was a sturdy emotional bond was spilling into lust and longing.

Feelings they were unable to fathom. Until one day Julie wrote her heart out in a letter and gave it to Rekha.

But even as teenagers they instinctively knew that nobody would understand. So, they kept meeting as friends. Until Julie’s mother stumbled upon the truth.

”One day my mother saw us sharing the same cup of tea. Later she saw us making love. She found our love letters under my mattress. She beat me up, accused my partner of trapping me. We could not bear to be parted, and we ran away from home,” said Julie, NGO worker.

An NGO called Sangamma in a lower middle class Muslim neighbourhood in Bangalore gave shelter to Julie and Rekha in March 2005.

”Our prime focus has been lower middle class, poor men and women who are not educated. Class definitely gives a certain privilege when it comes to making a choice. We have reached out to people who don’t even know who they are when they come here,” said Sumati, Activist, Sangamma.

Sangamma’s special women’s wing LesBIT reaches out to lesbians – women who love women, bisexuals, women who are attracted to both men and women and female to male transgenders, who are born women but wish to be men.

Many of them want to undergo sex change surgeries. But each surgery costs nearly Rs 10 lakh. So, they dress and act as men.

*Another touching story*

Twenty-two-year old Christy was an abandoned girl child who was adopted by a eunuch. From an early age, she felt more comfortable with boys preferring to dress in pants and shirts.

A choice she never questioned until she fell in love with a hijra – a male to female transgender, who was her mother’s friend. She was just twelve.

She fought her feelings, deeply confused and tormented.

”I had so many questions. Am I alone? Are there others like me? I tried to suppress these thoughts. It was only later when I came to Sangamma I realised I that there are others like me. I accepted myself,” said Christy, activist.

But his family has rejected him. His mother, a hijra despite her struggles with her own sexual identity has kept no contact with him.

”My mother knows I am here, but she has made no effort to get in touch with me,” said Christy, activist.

One day Christy hopes he will have enough resources to undergo a sex change surgery.

Stories of Julie, Christy and Rekha are the stories of the voiceless gender in India.

They are branded as imports of the morally lax West, a refuge of urban minds with too much money and education.

A perception that groups working for sexual minorities in India had to fight even within the larger women’s movement.

”Five years ago there was this programme to hold a woman’s rally on March 8. All women’s groups were supposed to march, including lesbian groups. But the bigger groups like AIDWA said no you cannot take your banner and march because that will kind of divert people’s attention from the real issues we want to focus on,” said Menaka, lecturer.

A mindset, Maya Sharma, set out to challenge when she began working on her book, *Loving Women: Being Lesbian in Unprivileged India*.

The book through one-on-one interviews documents the lives of ten working class lesbian women in northern India.

”What I found was that women had created spaces for one another. The women I interviewed had met during marriages, or while celebrating festivals like Holi or even while travelling. Of course they were under pressure for different reasons like no state recognition. So they cannot live together. But that women are invisible and therefore unhappy, well there is another side,” said Maya Sharma, author.

*Accepting oneself*

To openly choose alternate sexuality often means exposing one’s vulnerability to the world.

But it’s a risk Mala, a female to male transgender, who lives in a town in south east Gujarat, chose to take. Orphaned when she was eleven years old, Mala was raised by her grandmother.

She always felt attracted to women but kept it a secret because she knew her family would not accept it.

But when she turned sixteen, she found a job and became financially independent. It was time her to come out to the world.

”I wanted to be independent, a woman who could do whatever she wanted and experience the freedom my grandmother had never allowed me. I wanted to express the man inside of me,” said Mala, auto workshop supervisor.

Today, Mala is 22 and works as a supervisor in a two-wheeler workshop. At home, her grandmother constantly pressurises her to dress like a girl and get married. And at the workplace she has had to face worse.

”A customer came to the workshop. He thought I was a boy. My co-worker told him. ”Don’t you know, it’s a girl you are talking to”. And the customer said, ”Is that so? I must check her now”. I was shocked, speechless. But I could say nothing because he was a customer,” said Mala, auto workshop supervisor.

They encounter anger, pain and shame even in big cities where there is greater access to anonymity and private spaces.

”There was once a note from some guy which was slipped under my door. It kind of said he would like a different kind of woman to be in his and his wife’s relationship. I mean why do you think I would want to be part of this and secondly how did he know I was queer? He didn’t want me to sleep with him but with him and his wife!! It was unnerving. I was scared because I live in this area. I started thinking, are people watching me? How many people know this about me? It was very unnerving,” said Sheila, researcher.

”When a couple comes out in open, then there are questions asked when they want to rent space. Kids knock on your door in the middle of the night and harass you. I know of a couple who had to move house three times because of repeated harassment,” said Teena, journalist.

Many women in urban India prefer to be invisible while speaking about their sexuality. Most same sex couples, which have been forced to come out, are from low-income families where women have far fewer choices, thus their lives are open to greater scrutiny.

So, they can be pushed to a corner where the only way out is to either expose themselves or attempt suicide.

*Childhood lovestory*

Childhood sweethearts Charu and Gayathri were growing up in Erode in Tamil Nadu. But then the families found out about their relationship.

They were forced apart and married off, marriages that turned out to be unhappy and violent.

After seven years, Charu decided to walk out with her daughters and return to her mother’s home in Erode. Gayatri was living here with her husband and children.

”Charu and I started meeting each other often. My husband became very suspicious and we started fighting more than usual. Charu and I were fed up. We decided to walk out,” said Gayathri, NGO worker.

Thirteen years after they fell in love, Charu and Gayathri are finally living together.

But the life of their dreams is haunted by nightmares. They have little access to their children who live with their grandparents in Erode.

”When I saw my children the last time I had short hair and I was wearing pants and shirt and my daughter did not recognise me. At that moment I felt like killing myself for the choices I have made,’ said Charu, NGO worker.

For Charu and Gayatri settling into the relationship was even harder, Charu use to dominate Gayatri and she struggled to break free. Ironically, mirroring the relationships both of them were seeking an escape from.

”When we were married, our husbands dominated us. So when we came away, we decided we would not be like that. But that changed. Our egos took over. Things became worse when she was briefly attracted to someone else. My worst instincts surfaced and there was violence,” said Charu, NGO worker.

”Charu does not treat me like a partner, but like a wife. For me it’s very important to be treated as an equal, but Charu does not think that. And it creates conflict,” said Gayathri, NGO worker.

Charu and Gayathri are now seeing a marriage counselor.

According to activists, their experience with each other fit a pattern seen in same sex relationships where in the absence of role models of two women in an intimate relationship some unconsciously emulate heterosexual relationships.

”What I see is that a lot of homosexual people really do not have models or alternate ways of living and we really haven’t explored that. Of two women living together, having sex and being friends and lovers. For us if two people are having sex there has to be a gendered role, there has to be a man or a woman,” said Sumati, Sangamma.

There are others who argue that support is vital in relationships.

”There is huge myth that queer relationships don’t sustain. But one has to see why that is the case. People think we are in it only for the sex. But sex is important in all relationships isn’t it. So one has to see why queer relationships don’t last. It’s because there is no support,” said Sheila, researcher.

”There is also this fear that if I lose this person then who else? Where do I find another person? If I don’t have family or friends, then I want to hold onto that one person even if it’s not working out,” said Menaka,
lecturer and activist.

Fighting fear of losing each other and maintaining their self-respect in front of the world is not an easy task for these women but they have been squabbling with odds and proving everybody wrong.

TOI: Tamil Nadu to create transgender database April 25, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Times of India, Transgender.


22 Apr 2008, 0140 hrs IST,T K Rohit,TNN

CHENNAI: For the first time in the country, a special database of transgenders would be created by the Tamil Nadu government to help deal with their problems and demands.

In a policy note on social welfare tabled in the Assembly on Monday, social welfare minister Dr Poongothai said the database would have comprehensive details on transgenders. It would be created with the help of  a non-governmental organisation, Dr Poongathai said.

“We are starting the work with an NGO in this regard. We should hopefully have it ready in a couple of months. It is a unique initiative and is being done for the first time in the county,” the minister said.

“Once we have the data, we shall look into the issues that transgenders face and try our best to resolve them,” she told The Times of India.

The database would look into details, demands, population of transsexuals, facilities required by them such as ration cards, voter identity cards and health facilities, and look at ways of providing them with the same.

Tamil Nadu became the first state in the country to recognise transgenders as a separate gender and issue ration cards to them, passports are likely to follow.

Meanwhile, the government also proposes to constitute a board for transgenders to rehabilitate them and ensure equality and security for them in the society.

The board will look into the various problems, difficulties and inconveniences faced by them and based on these formulate and execute welfare schemes for their betterment.

The government has allocated Rs 50 lakh for the board to be set up for transgenders in 2008-09, Poongothaisaid.


UN body slams India on rights of gays April 24, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Times of India.
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24 Apr 2008, 0334 hrs IST,Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN

New Delhi: India faced intense questioning from the international community on homosexuality and the widening gap between rich and poor at a recent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

It termed the provision in Indian Penal Code making “unnatural sex” an offence as a legacy of the British and countered the allegation of widening rich-poor gap by citing the Centre’s decision to waive farm loans to the tune of Rs 60,000 crore — an example of many efforts to make growth inclusive.

The Swedish delegation questioned India on homosexuality and was concerned that it was still considered an offence in the country.

Replying to the query, solicitor general of India G E Vahanvati went back in history and said, “In the early 19th century, the English frowned on homosexuality. There are historical reports that various people came to India to take advantage of its more liberal atomosphere with regard to different kinds of sexual conduct.

Some of them, in fact, joined the Army and as Army officers they were more privileged than ordinary people.” To stop this, the British inserted Section 377 in Indian Penal Code — the concept of sexual offences against the order of nature, essentially a western concept, which has remained in the penal laws for years.

“Homosexuality, as such, is not defined in Indian Penal Code. But, it will be a matter of great argument whether it is against the order of nature,” Vahanvati said.

He also underlined the efforts of an NGO — Naz Foundation — to challenge the constitutional validity of Section 377 of IPC and told the conference how the Supreme Court saw merit in the PIL and has asked the Delhi High Court to adjudicate the matter.

However, he did not forget to mention the report of the Law Commission of India on homosexuality. The commission had stated that Indian society did not consider homosexuality an acceptable form of behaviour, Vahanvati said and requested the international community to await the outcome of the judicial scrutiny.

Delegations from Brazil, Algeria and Nigeria referred to India’s phenomenal growth but raised questions whether this was inclusive growth and expressed concern over reports about widening gulf between the rich and poor.

Vahanvati agreed that widening rich-poor gap was one of the greatest concerns of the government in India. “This is not going to disappear overnight but it requires sustained will and coordinated programmes which we have already put in action,” he said, citing the Rs 60,000 crore farm loan waiver.

He said farmers in India, being dependant on rain, faced serious problems in paying back debt in case the monsoon failed. “The decision to waive off $15 billion in farm loans is one of the largest schemes undertaken by any government to promote the welfare of its agriculturists… This is one example of what we are trying to do,” he said.


India eNews: Gay angle in manager’s murder in south Delhi[?] April 23, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Crime.
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From correspondents in Delhi, India, 09:01 PM IST

The murder of a man, who was stabbed several times late Monday in a south Delhi showroom, could be a fallout of homosexual relations, police officials said Tuesday.

Narender Kumar, a 50-year-old manager of the Meena Bazaar saree showdown, was found dead with multiple stab injuries on chest, neck and back in the shop in Lajpat Nagar’s central market late Monday.

His body was found in a semi-naked condition, while no valuables or cash were missing from the shop.

‘Initial investigations point to the possibility that the murder could be a fallout of homosexual relations. Doctors are performing autopsy, which would throw more light on the case,’ a senior investigating official told IANS.

The official said Narender was working with the showroom for last three decades and was a trustworthy employee for the shop owner.

‘Narender used to keep the keys of the showroom with him. It is surprising that he went to the shop when it remains closed on Monday. Nobody has seen him entering the shop,’ the official said.

‘We are trying to know why he entered the shop and who was accompanying him. His family told us that he did not have enmity with anyone,’ he said, adding that matter was being probed from all angles.

(Staff Writer, © IANS)

At home with homosexualilty on city campuses April 22, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Hindustan Times.
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Nayantara Bhatkal, Hindustan Times

Mumbai, April 22, 2008

For Kyara Vasudev (name changed on request), the closet is where one keeps clothes.

The 19-year-old second-year Sophia College student ‘outed’ herself as a bisexual on campus a year ago, but her friends still hang out with her at the canteen and cannot think of leaving her out of weekend getaways. The change, if at all, has been a leap of trust in her.

“Anonymously calling up on a queer helpline or writing to an ‘agony aunt’ column may help, but daily interaction will be with your friends. Telling them about your alternative sexuality makes you comfortable,” said Kyara, who has still not told her parents about her sexuality. “When friends know, it lends an air of normalcy to a homosexual relationship. When you hold your partner’s hand and none of your friends flinch, you begin to feel better about yourself.”

Kyara is part of silent, tentative but defining changes sweeping Mumbai’s colleges, say students, professors, counsellors and gay rights activists in the city. They say the stigma and violent rejection palpable even a couple of years ago are giving way to gentle understanding on campuses. Mental health professionals and culture commentators attribute this liberal depiction of homosexuality in more and more TV shows, news reports and films.

It was very different in the ’80s, says Professor Ashley Tellis (39), who has taught in Cambridge University, St Stephen’s College in Delhi and the University of Mumbai. “Right through school and college, I was subjected to derogatory remarks and was even threatened with molestation,” he recounted. “There now exists a ‘language of coming out’ and there are a few people who are trying to create an environment free of bias against any particular sexual minority. Although this group is small, it sets a precedent for generations to come.”

Beauty Pageant with a Difference April 20, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in Hindustan Times, Transgender.
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Drimi Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times
Email Author
Kolkata, April 20, 2008

After the annual Rainbow Pride March to spread awareness about the third
gender, Kolkata is ready for its first-ever beauty pageant for transsexuals
on Sunday.
The event is being organised by MANAS Bangla (a network of the lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender or LGBT community) and city-based gay rights
organisation Kolkata Rishta. Sunday’s winners will join contestants from
other cities to the Miss India Beauty Queen contest.

The grand finale organised by Bhojiwood Films, the largest producer of
Bhojhpuri cinema, will be held in New Delhi later this month.

Anish Roy Chowdhury of city-based LGBT rights organisation Ametié and one of
the event promoters, said the motive behind the beauty pageant is to develop
a platform for the LGBT community. “Despite various programmes throughout
the year, our issue does not have as much visibility as it should,” he said.

Some city transsexuals feel that Miss Indian Beauty Queen could be the
stepping-stone for them as the three winners could get a chance to
participate in international pageants.