As I said in my last blog, I will be spending this entry discussing the differences between American transvestites and the Hijras of India. According to Mary Ann Horton, 1 in 187,000 men will have female to male surgery in the United States every year. This means that about one male for every 1500 men born will be diagnosed as a transsexual, with 60% of them getting sex reassignment surgery (SRS). In India, the ratio of Hijras, who are recipients (for the most part), of male to female SRS, is 1:375. For every 375 people, there is one male to female SRS recipient. Compared to about one in 750 for the United States, that number is astounding. One reason for this may be that it is phenomenally easier for SRS in India than in the United States.
In the United States, when a transsexual person would like to have SRS, whether male to female or female to male, they are required to undergo psychological evaluations, to determine that they are prepared for the surgery and life after the surgery. Once they have cleared the evaluation, they pick out what they want their new “parts” to look like, since it is essentially cosmetic surgery. This is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Hijras. When a Hijra realizes that they are in fact a woman, they are generally young, and they don’t get a psychological evaluation. They get opium and milk, and then a quick painful slicing with a knife.
There are fundamental differences, and one might say it is because the United States is more technically or surgically advanced than India, but it is actually the culture that is the major divider. In India, although there are severe difficulties for the Hijras, they are more socially accepted than in the United States, and it is more widely accepted that people may be born in the wrong gender. Although they are not recognized by the government, and only recently were able to identify themselves as “E” (for eunuch), on their passports, there is a culture for them in India, which there is not in the United States. They exist, but people don’t generally know about them, and have a harder time accepting the fact that they exist in our culture.
2002 Eunuchs-India's Third Gender. Electronic Document, http://thingsasian.com/stories-photos/2022, accessed October 21, 2008.
Horton, Mary Ann
2008 The Prevalence of SRS among US Residents. Electronic Document, http://www.tgender.net/taw/thbcost.html#prevalence, accessed October 21, 2008.
2008 “Please Write ‘E’ in this Box” Toward Self-Identification and Recognition of a Third Gender: Approaches in the United States and India. Michigan Journal of Gender and Law 14(2):223-258.