Laxmi Narayan Tripathi’s Me Hijra Me Laxmi, translated into English from the original Marathi by R Raj Rao, talks of the author’s journey from a confused boyhood in a Brahmin family to becoming a global champion of transgender rights.
How has the space that the Hijra community has traditionally occupied in Indian society changed?
During the days of kings and nawabs, and to the religious too, we were known as sub-gods, the ‘updevatas’. For kings and queens, we were the most trusted and loyal ones. We were employed as advisors, cooks, took care of harems, everything was under us. Later, under the British, everything changed. We were removed from the mainstream and thrown to the corners. The whole community was devastated.
Some activists believe the word ‘queer’ is a political term. What are your thoughts on where the Hijra community stands with respect to the LGBT movement?
This English world with white collar social activists only exists in air-conditioned rooms. It doesn’t work with the people selling their bodies or begging on streets. For me, they are more of a concern. I don’t understand LGBT. All I understand is sexual minorities. We are from one minority, which is neglected, and within that neglected minority, we are the most neglected. This is because we are the one sexual minority which can be seen with your naked eyes.
Do you think the 2014 Supreme Court judgment recognising the third gender is enough?
The judgment was enough. The problem is that after it, nothing is being taken forward. Now the government is coming up with the Rights of Transgender Persons bill. We have done community consultation and discussed everything. The government has been very promising. Whatever has to be done should be done in taking the community into consideration and not according to the whims of the bureaucracy. We don’t need saviours; rather, we need to be saved from the saviours.
You come from a conservative Brahmin family. Would your experience have been different had you come from a different background?
One community where caste, religion nothing, comes across is ours. That’s the beauty of being a hijra. If I had been royalty, it would have been tedious (laughs). I am really honoured to belong to my family. My parents loved me very much.
Speaking of your book, what role do you think literature, theatre and the arts play in awareness?
It is very necessary. Even the press has been our first and best ally, which helped to sensitise the mainstream society.
Do you believe Section 377 will be scrapped anytime soon?
Of course, it will be. India cannot live with Section 377 anymore.
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