Transgender in India?

#1 Feb 18th, 2018, 00:10
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  • tibetianterrier is offline
#1
Hi guys,

I'm transgender [ftm: female-to-male] and my school and I are doing an expedition to India in the summer. We're hiking in the Himalayan foothills and then spending time sightseeing in more urban areas. In the Himalayas, we'll work closely with local people but not so much in the bigger cities.

I'm worried about both offending people's culture and endangering myself. I understand that not everywhere is as liberal as the Western World and that's alright - I'm just worried about blundering over to a culture that isn't my own and being rude as well as endangering my own safety.

I am currently not on treatment but am planning to start soon, either before or after India depending on how I am likely to be received there. I am now, more or less, a girl with short hair and recognizable as such. If I start treatment now, by the time I go to India I'll be in gender limbo - neither male nor female, passing sometimes as male and othertimes as a girl.

How are attitudes to transgender people, especially female-to-male, in India? Am I likely to upset people? Am I likely to be in danger? Would you recommend holding off for treatment or will it be alright if I start now?
#2 Feb 18th, 2018, 01:57
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  • Golghar is offline
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Welcome to Indiamike! In her autobiography Conundrum, Jan Morris writes about her experiences travelling in India during her male-to-female gender reassignment process. This was nearly half a centrury ago but it might still be useful.
#3 Feb 18th, 2018, 03:43
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Hi,
As a western visitor, you will be treated with a certain amount of respect anyway by local people.
On the other hand, my impression in India is that roles are more "traditional" than in the west, so if the folk you are dealing with don't know to "pigeon hole" you, not knowing if you are male or female, it may make them feel awkward? I do not imagine you would be in any danger as such, but any school age person should probably not be alone in such areas without teachers or fellow pupils?
I guess how you dress will help give others the information as to how you wish to be identified?

Good luck,

Ed.
#4 Feb 18th, 2018, 05:07
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Golghar View Post Welcome to Indiamike! In her autobiography Conundrum, Jan Morris writes about her experiences travelling in India during her male-to-female gender reassignment process. This was nearly half a centrury ago but it might still be useful.
Thanks! I'll be sure to check out the book, it sounds fascinating.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldandRambling View Post Hi,
As a western visitor, you will be treated with a certain amount of respect anyway by local people.
On the other hand, my impression in India is that roles are more "traditional" than in the west, so if the folk you are dealing with don't know to "pigeon hole" you, not knowing if you are male or female, it may make them feel awkward? I do not imagine you would be in any danger as such, but any school age person should probably not be alone in such areas without teachers or fellow pupils?
I guess how you dress will help give others the information as to how you wish to be identified?

Good luck,

Ed.
Hi Ed, thanks for the reply! I definitely won't be without the group (about 35 including teachers) so being alone won't be an issue. While hiking dressing won't be an issue since it'll be colder and we'll be wrapped up but in the cities it's going to be a lot warmer. I suppose I'd dress like one of the boys - I'm pretty feminine anyway, so I guess I'd pass for most of it. So do you think it would be generally alright?
#5 Feb 18th, 2018, 06:32
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I think you should be fine.

The thing is, that there is not much of a "norm" for tourists to India. They get all sorts, from young budget backpackers, old budget backpackers, me, old hippies, yoga fans, folk seeking "enlightenment", etc, etc... so unless you try very hard, I don't think locals will take any more notice of you than they do the rest of us visitors!

As foreigners, we all have some licence to seem a bit strange, anyway!

Ed.
#6 Feb 18th, 2018, 10:57
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Hey,

we Indians generally stare at things that look unfamiliar. We just like to stare. We are nosey and often ask people personal questions which may be considered rude to an outsider (you're unmarried? Why? And so on) so you can expect some of that. It's innocuous 99% of the time.

Still, I'd advise you don't tell people you're transgender upfront-- not because I think you'd endanger yourself (that's very unlikely IMO) but because I wouldn't be surprised if people get even more curious and start asking uncomfortable questions (oh your parents were fine with that??) that you might not want to tell strangers about.

You probably already know this but india has its own transgender/cross dressing community-- hijras they're called--and though they've been around centuries they continue to be discriminated against and marginalised. (People have loads of superstitious beliefs too--the curse of a Hijra is very potent but then so is their blessing,).

Anyway, being a westerner none of this will apply to you so don't think about it. Nevertheless, I'd strongly suggest you outwardly identify with one or the other gender and stick with it. Whatever you're comfortable with right now..so if somebody does ask don't say I'm transgender or transitioning.

I know somebody (married guy with kids) who's recently come out not only as a gay man but as a tran woman. Seeing him cross dress openly etc was a shock to many and as you'd expect it did incur hostile reactions, but then he got a lot of support too, esp from his wife. But I digress.

Good luck!
#7 Feb 18th, 2018, 11:02
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  • vaibhav_arora is offline
#7
Well, we don't have 'all gender' restrooms here yet, so try sticking to one of the two in cities.
#8 Feb 18th, 2018, 14:38
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  • Nick-H is offline
#8

Transgender in India?

Being blunt. With both feet.

India is not a tolerant society. Prejudice and discrimination is the order of the day. Caste, colour, gender... Anything and everything.

Be who and what you are for yourself, inside. For others here, I'd advise being, for practical purposes, what you can most easily appear. Either way. Your choice. Confuse people and you will get a negative response, even if it is concealed behind a language you don't understand. If this feels like not being true to yourself... It's a short term thing. You are still you inside.

This answer may not be popular. It is, though, I believe, essentially correct... And if it is a bit on the pessimistic side, then I'd rather prepare you for a worse experience than you will get than the other way around.

I'm sure you will manage your situation well, and have a great trip. Enjoy

(background... I'm a white guy, emigrated to India. Don't do much travel, but it's my home for thirteen years and I identify with it, not so much where I come from. I feel a bit foreign there now!)
~
Life gets aadhar every day.
.
#9 Feb 18th, 2018, 20:33
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I pretty much agree with everything said above. Go for it, risk it, there may be awkward moments. I think violence is unlikely, especially since you'll be with your group most of the time.

One thing that may be difficult for you -- it's difficult for me -- is that many people in India feel it's just fine to ask strangers about their personal life and especially about their marital or family situation. I can't tell you how many times in my 30s and 40s perfect strangers and acquaintances would ask "Why don't you have children at your age?" and then they literally, I shit you not, this happened more times than I can count: "But you must have children! Don't say you don't want children! Your life will be meaningless if you don't! Who will take care of you in your old age?!?!?" I remember a taxi driver lighting into me; a soldier I sheltered from a quick rainstorm with while I waited for my companions to come down the road; the person sitting next to me in a flight (trapped!); uncountable acquaintances where I live in India; uncountable people in shops who took interest in this foreigner who speaks their obscure language; but happily, almost no real friends or people I work with did this. That's for a straight cis female who chooses not to (or just doesn't) have children. Phew!

So I think your biggest risk is unexpected people, not every day but at least once in the trip, who suddenly get up your nose about it and say outrageously personal things, making wild assumptions about your family and your life. If you can keep from getting upset, it might make a good anecdote later!

That's my two cents!
#10 Feb 19th, 2018, 03:26
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#10
Historically speaking, India has accepted and even embraced its people of THIRD GENDER. Yes, you read that right. Classification with a strict gender binarism that was not inclusive of all wasnít acceptable to the then Indians. Hence, millennia ago, they introduced a new term for them: Tritiya prakriti (google), which literally means third nature or third gender. So there the ancient hindus had recognized the fact that gender isnít a compulsory binary concept. The LGBTQ community has been collectively assigned this term.

Since hindu religion as such never ever condemned them (unlike Christianity and Islam, which explicitly did) the overall outlook was not adverse. There is no negative religious diktat hence no persecution. They lived along side the heterosexuals with no fear or shame. That was up until the mlecchas had begun their brutal invasions. With 800 years of muslim occupation and subjugation life turned miserable for the third gender community. In fact some rulers had castrated boys so that they could carry out sentry and security work for their harems. Next 200yrs saw the European colonialists occupying and running the affairs there. That is when criminalization of homosexuality entered the British Indiaís law books. A whole thousand years of interruption , understandably, brought in some perceptible change in the indian mindset about the LGBT community.

If you look feminine you must feel free to dress as a female and carry on as a female tourist. Also use womenís rest rooms. Staring as said above is very common. There are open transgender female school principals, TV anchors etc currently living in India(google).
#11 Feb 19th, 2018, 09:33
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#11
Quote:
Originally Posted by tibetianterrier View Post Hi guys,

I'm transgender [ftm: female-to-male] and my school and I are doing an expedition to India in the summer. We're hiking in the Himalayan foothills and then spending time sightseeing in more urban areas. In the Himalayas, we'll work closely with local people but not so much in the bigger cities.

I'm worried about both offending people's culture and endangering myself. I understand that not everywhere is as liberal as the Western World and that's alright - I'm just worried about blundering over to a culture that isn't my own and being rude as well as endangering my own safety.

I am currently not on treatment but am planning to start soon, either before or after India depending on how I am likely to be received there. I am now, more or less, a girl with short hair and recognizable as such. If I start treatment now, by the time I go to India I'll be in gender limbo - neither male nor female, passing sometimes as male and othertimes as a girl.

How are attitudes to transgender people, especially female-to-male, in India? Am I likely to upset people? Am I likely to be in danger? Would you recommend holding off for treatment or will it be alright if I start now?
I think you will have no problems.

Interestingly I have some experiences of the transgender kind.

I have always been discriminated from a very young age by my Chinese peers for being 'fairer' than them, its only later when I grew up that I realized I'm working very well with ladies and having the same hairstyle as my colleagues that the unwanted discrimination was because I looked transgender. I have a bit of a ladies' figure with narrow waist also, adding to the appearance.

Thanks to my mom's upbringing I am very proficient in womens' rights issues and gossip as well. Oh my. Well too bad, people should stop bullying my mom until she keeps coming to me for advice!

I didn't actually change anything on my person to suit the appearance and role but its quite flattering to wear traditional Indian clothes and people comment favorably on the 'salwar'.

It was a joke that my colleagues kept buying me kurtas and wearing them often to the point people think we are wearing exactly the same cut of clothes. To the uninitiated, that's what they see in Indian fashion - I'm wearing dresses. And often for temple events and dance performances, elaborate ones!

Actually I can be in the most modest of my kurthas and still people are assuming I am some Indian lady - people don't realize anything until I speak and even when I do speak - obviously a guy's voice! people still want to give my Indian friends compliments about me but still respectfully avert their gaze like I'm a woman.

I've had this outlook for god knows how long, it was more than 8 years ago when I first wore Indian clothes to work to protest against my employers' ill treatment of ethnic clients. I made sure they paid the price for that shameful discrimination - as leaders and owners of the company they should know better.

I stuck to it and eventually changed careers and ended up with a department full of Indian Ladies. It was heaven. Actually, I was welcomed to their inner circle because I defended them against discriminatory and corrupt management once again, and ended up overthrowing them... and demanding to promote the Indian ladies because they were the only ones showing compassion and care to employees - maternal instinct in management is VERY welcome.

I then took up Hinduism and Bollywood dance to repay the kindness and support they showed me through difficult times, after realizing the role they were expecting me to play for them has some precedence in Hindu mythology. Oh my. To the temples to pay respects, every week!

So in short, there will be no any difficulty on your part. I am always welcomed as I am in the Indian quarter of town, in temples, in households.

As a "foreigner" never have I been wanting any special attention always wanting to be humble and wanting to learn about Indian culture and religion and I've had no problems whatsoever.

It's easy to humor people with my 'Katrina Kaif' hairstyle and dance moves too, though these days I'm performing a rather more controversial traditional style thanks to a certain medieval-fantasy movie.

Anyway as I'm growing older I will not be able to pull off the "Indian lady" look eventually, but this is my little legacy and proof you will be warmly welcomed to Indian culture. If there are any doubts I will be spending a week in Delhi and surrounding area in March and I am quite confident with the advice I'm given that I will be alright. Hope it helps.
#12 Feb 19th, 2018, 15:23
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  • Nick-H is offline
#12


Quote:
To the uninitiated, that's what they see in Indian fashion - I'm wearing dresses
Curious, cross-cultural stereotyping of dress.

I dress local-traditional. It may have started as a bit of an eccentricity, but it has become firm habit. But I have come across westerners who are unable to dissociate the idea of draping a piece of cloth around one's waist with the feminine idea of a skirt. But it vesti/dhoti/lungi has no more feminine association than has a kilt in UK. One woman from England once commented to me that Indian men must be comfortable with their femininity: I suggested she discuss that with a pub full of Scots rugby fans! And reminded her that a huge empire was conquered by guys in skirts. (((femine-side comfort: yes I am, but that's not the point, the point is about incorrect stereotyping)))

Great post! Really like what you have done. I won't come and see you dance, because, sorry, I hate Indian film music! But that's just me... Good on you for doing it!

<Interrupted... it seems I'm late for an appointment!>
#13 Feb 19th, 2018, 15:25
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  • RahulDeva is offline
#13
Quote:
Originally Posted by surya2015 View Post Historically speaking, India has accepted and even embraced its people of THIRD GENDER. Yes, you read that right. Classification with a strict gender binarism that was not inclusive of all wasnít acceptable to the then Indians. Hence, millennia ago, they introduced a new term for them: Tritiya prakriti (google), which literally means third nature or third gender. So there the ancient hindus had recognized the fact that gender isnít a compulsory binary concept. The LGBTQ community has been collectively assigned this term.

Since hindu religion as such never ever condemned them (unlike Christianity and Islam, which explicitly did) the overall outlook was not adverse. There is no negative religious diktat hence no persecution. They lived along side the heterosexuals with no fear or shame. That was up until the mlecchas had begun their brutal invasions. With 800 years of muslim occupation and subjugation life turned miserable for the third gender community. In fact some rulers had castrated boys so that they could carry out sentry and security work for their harems. Next 200yrs saw the European colonialists occupying and running the affairs there. That is when criminalization of homosexuality entered the British Indiaís law books. A whole thousand years of interruption , understandably, brought in some perceptible change in the indian mindset about the LGBT community.

If you look feminine you must feel free to dress as a female and carry on as a female tourist. Also use womenís rest rooms. Staring as said above is very common. There are open transgender female school principals, TV anchors etc currently living in India(google).
So true. We had rivers of milk and honey till the mlechha fellas came and peed and shat in them. Back to the past
#14 Feb 19th, 2018, 15:27
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#14
Quote:
Originally Posted by kannan84 View Post I think you will have no problems.
Hope it helps.
Sad to be the party pooper, but being a solo traveller who is a cross dressing male won't be a walk in the park. Hope to be proven wrong
Last edited by vaibhav_arora; Feb 19th, 2018 at 15:59.. Reason: removed quote, unnecessary
#15 Feb 19th, 2018, 16:13
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#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by kannan84 View Post I think you will have no problems.

I am quite confident with the advice I'm given that I will be alright. Hope it helps.
I'm afraid that while you mean well, you're misleading the OP through a lack of awareness about present day India. Gender segregation and stereotyping is quite ingrained in the present day society.

Your sojourn in Singapore has probably has given you a fair idea of our food, perhaps our clothing and a bit of religion - but that's not India. It's still Singapore.

An aquarium is not the ocean. I wish you well for your trip but please do not reassure others about areas you have limited information on.

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