A few weeks ago I was searching the web for information on Hijras, and I kept coming across people referencing one book in particular, so I found it on Amazon and bought it, hoping it would help me. As I began reading it I found myself getting more answers to my original thoughts about why people would willingly want to enter a life where they are outsiders. The Hijra culture has roots in Hindu myths, one of the main ones being the story about Ram searching for his wife Sita only to return to find the Hijras meditating.
At first, I thought that the boundaries were clear, that Hijras were men who chose to become women. But after reading a chapter of the book, I discovered that they identify themselves neither as men or as women, and that Hijra is the term they choose to define themselves with. They are not men, because they do not have sexual feelings for women, which is one of the main definitions for a man in Indian culture, however the main reason they feel that they are not men is because of their genitalia, it is either not perfect or not there at all, but they also consider their feelings as mentioned in previous entries. The Hijras also do not define themselves as women, because of the simple fact that they cannot bear children. According to Nanda there are many Hijras who would like to have children, but because of their gender they are unable to reproduce.
Since I began this blog hoping to understand this culture, I realized that I began this blog thinking that there are only two genders. Through this blog so far I have realized that there are actually at least three genders. I had always just thought that transvestites (as we have in America) were male or female, that they didn’t fall into a third or fourth category. Now I have realized that there are many more than two genders, and that those to genders are not just the anatomy, but also the mentalities of the people.
1999 The Hijras of India: Neither Man nor Woman. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.