ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Transgender Identities

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This is in response to the editorial “Where the Transgender Bill Fails” (EPW, 1 September 2018). The present understanding of the third gender in India consists of an overlapping of identities. This includes people identifying as intersex, hijra, and/or transgender. For instance, the Census of India, in its first attempt to count the “third gender” population in 2011, estimated 4,90,000 persons. However, it was found that 55,000 “transgender” persons of that population were in the age group of 0–6 years, thereby indicating the number of declared intersex births in 2011. This evidence highlights how, in popular discourse, hijras are not differentiated from intersex and transgender persons, and thus the current count of the third gender population in India is not an accurate representation of the hijra population.

One explanation for this confusion over the differences between the third gender, transgender, and intersex identities could be that the Hindi word “hijra” has been used as a general term to label all these identities. Moreover, the interchangeability of the term, hijra, with terms such as transgender and/or intersex, neglects the historicity of all these three terms, which came about in different sociopolitical contexts, and their invisible synchronisation in the process of an elided identity formation is problematic.

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Updated On : 7th Sep, 2018

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