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The paper entitled “Migrating genders
from invisibility to visibility: a study on the socio political stratus of Transgenders in Kerala”, is a potential study showcasing the sociopolitical
status of Transgenders in Kerala and
also to understand the problems faced by the
Transgender community. It also attempts to put forward suggestions to improve
their social status. The study is based on the primary and secondary data.
Primary data was collected by conducting semi structured interview among
Transgenders and Transsexuals in Trivandrum district (Five nos.), Kerala and
secondary data was collected from books, research publications, websites etc.
With the introduction of Transgender rights bill and recognizing Transgender
rights, India especially Kerala has the potential to tackle the current issues
related to gender and sexual minorities in an effective manner, and to create a
model for other nations to understand gender based rights. In order to achieve
this goal, India must ensure Transgender Rights, Right to Equality and enact
legislation for equal opportunity. We must provide them open social and
political spaces in all spheres of life to the gender and sexual minorities for
their empowerment and to dismantle the current social stigma and discrimination
towards them. We must pass formal legislation and enact them with the help of
NGO’S, CBO’S, and Human right activist and governmental agencies to bring
meaningful change in the current system. The provision to choose the third
gender as a gender option in AADHAR and the recent Supreme Court judgments are
examples of such a change. This paper analyses the major changes that happened in the
strata of the transgender community and the impact of such movements in their
life. This paper also deals with the events in timeline that has changed the
way society perceived transgender community in Kerala.

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Key words:
Transgender, Third Gender


Gender is
one of the most discussed terms of this century. Socialization in all societies
is closely related to gender and sex. However gender and sex are closely
related, there are subtle differences between the two. Sex refers to the
biological aspects of humans which includes the internal and external
genitalia, sex chromosomes, and hormones etc. Gender is a term used to refer
how people feel about themselves. The biological aspect of sex is seen among
different cultures, aspect of gender might not be. Transgender is a person’s
gender identity. The most accepted definition for the term transgender seems to
be “People who were assigned a gender, usually at birth and based on the
external genitals, but who feels that this is a false or incomplete description
of themselves. ” (USILGBT Transgender Campaign 2007). It is often used as an
umbrella term to mean those who defy rigid and binary ideas of gender and those
who break the stereotypical gender roles that are deep rooted in culture.

As part of
human evolution, we tend to improve and move as part of nature. The social
system tends to label things as natural. And the term natural means something
which is most commonly seen or happening in the society.  People who stood up against the gender norms
have existed in every culture throughout time. 
One such group of people are Transgenders .
The term transgender gained popularity in mid-1990. This umbrella term
encompasses people who defy gender norms, it includes Transgenders,
Transsexuals, Cross Dressers and people who feel that their assigned sex fails
to reflect their true gender.

to Susan Stryker (2008) Transgenders refers to people who move away from gender
which they were assigned at the time of birth. People who cross over boundaries
constructed by their culture to define and contain that gender. Transgender
people feels that they are trapped in a wrong body. Because of this reason many
undergoes Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). Or hormonal treatment to take the
desired physical form of their desired sex.

people may identify as lesbians, bisexuals, gay, and heterosexuals or of other
sexual orientation. Socially they demand the people to consider them as a man,
women, or transgender (Stryker, 2008; Taylor & Hatcher-Markel 2014)

In a
country like India, which confirms the gender binary roles of a male or a
female, the existence and survival of a third gender are going through tough
times and extremely rough paths. Though there was a clear social visibility for
Transgenders in Indian culture, current Indian society is hostile for the
Transgender Community.  In a study
conducted by Anitha Chettiar a Trasngender made a comment on sex, gender and
sexuality which goes like this “Sex is what you are born with, gender is what
you recognize and sexuality is what you discover.” It
seemingly came straight from the heart full of her conviction and philosophy
making no attempts to quote any authors or dictionary.

Method and Tools of Data Collection

The data
collection is based on the primary method and secondary method. In a primary
method, data is collected through interview guide prepared by the researcher
with the help of experts in the same field. The interview has been used by the
researcher to collect the data from the transgender living in Kerala and the
secondary methods of data are collected through books, journals, articles,
newspaper, and the other sources.

Area of the Study 

universe of study is the male to female transgender living in Kerala state. On
the basis of the community, there is no clear statistics or data available among
physically disabled transgender in Kerala. The study conducted by SANGAMA, an
NGO gives approximate statistics among the transgender living in Kerala, in
Kerala, there are more than 25000 transgender are living but hidden from the
public and social life because of the stigma and discrimination present in the
society. In Kerala, Transgender people are visible in some major urban cities,
especially in Cochin, Trivandrum, and Calicut.


researcher used Snowball sampling methods for data collection. The researcher
used this sampling method because the sample for the study is rare and limited
to a very small subgroup of the population in Thiruvananthapuram. In this
research, each transgender respondent is located by chain referral. The
sampling size is 5 respondents and the sample belongs to the age group of 25 to


Type of Transgenders in Indian context

In a
different place, they know the different name based on their culture and other
lifestyles. They are commonly known as hijra, kothy,arvani and thirunangai ,
jogtas/jogappas , shiva sakthy etc. 
These are culture related names and definitions of Transgender people
across India. There are Transgenders who does not
associate themselves as one among these.


Kothis are
a heterogeneous group. ‘Kothis can be described as biological males who show
varying degrees of ‘femininity’ – which may be situational and are considered
to be male bodies who cross-dresses. 
Some Kothis have bisexual behavior and get married to women. Kothis are
generally of lower socioeconomic status and some engage in sex work for
survival. Some proportion of Hijra-identified people may also identify
themselves as ‘Kothis’. But not all Kothi-identified people identify themselves
as transgender or Hijras (Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment

Aravanis and ‘Thirunangi’

 Hijras in Tamil Nadu are identified as
“Aravani”. Tamil Nadu Aravanigal Welfare Board, a state government’s initiative
under the Department of Social Welfare defines Aravanis as “biological males
who self-identify themselves as a woman trapped in male’s body”. Some Aravani
activists want the public and media to use the term “Thirunangi” to refer to
Aravanis (Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment 2014) 


Jogtas or
Jopgappas are those persons who are dedicated to and serve as a servant of
Goddess Renukha Devi (Yellamma) – whose temples are in Maharashtra and
Karnataka. “Jogta? refers to a male servant of that Goddess and “Jogti” refers
to female servant (who is also sometimes referred to as “Devadasi”). One can
become a “Jogta? (or Jogti) if it is part of their family tradition or if one
finds a “Guru? (or “Pujari?) who accepts him/her as a “Chela” or “Shishya”
(disciple). Sometimes, the term “JogtiHijras” is used to denote those
male-to-female transgender persons who are devotees/servants of Goddess Renukha
Devi and who are also in the Hijra communities. (Ministry of Social Justice and
Empowerment 2014) 


are considered as males who are possessed by or particularly close to a goddess
and who have feminine gender expression. Usually, Shiv-Shakthis are inducted
into the Shiv-Shakti community by senior gurus, who teach them the norms,
customs, and rituals to be observed by them. (Ministry of Social Justice and
Empowerment 2014) 


Hijras are
biological males who reject their ‘masculine’ identity and identify either as
women, or “not-men”, or “in- between man and woman”, or “neither man nor
woman”. Being a hijra requires adoption by a hijra guru which often also
includes payment of membership fee to enrol oneself in a particular gharana
(method school) to which the guru belongs with specific community norms and
tradition. Membership into a gharana is mandatory as it is only there that the
hijras learn the customs, hijra styles of singing and dancing and the coded
Farsi language in which the members communicate (Ministry of Social Justice and
Empowerment 2014)

Visibility of Transgender in Culture

people have always existed through out history, in different cultures
throughout all cultures across all nations and ethnic groups. The culture also
defines the concept of sex and gender. In the western culture the only way to
interpret the gender is within the bibile, and hence as either anatomically
male or female. The ancient greeks recognized a third sex known as
hermaphrodite , which is a negative term to refer an individual with both
sexual organs at birth.

community in India is mostly defined in terms of Hijras, Kuthis, Aravanis,
Jogappas, Siv Sakthis etc. Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism talks about gender
variant people from the ancient period onwards. During the Vedic period, in India they recognized three genders. The
Vedas (1500 BC-500 BC) describes individuals belonging to three different
gender category, According to ones behavior or Prakrithi, the transgender
people are known as the Thrithiya Paksha. Kamasutra also talks about
Transgender people as Pumsprakrithi – Prakrithi(Female Nature ) or Thrithiya
Prakrithi (Third Nature).

persons had been part of Indian society and folklore for centuries. There are
historical evidences of recognition of third gender in ancient India. The
concept of Thrithiyaprakrithi or Napumsaka had been an integral part of Hindu
mythology, folklore, epic and earl;y vedic and puranic literature. Lord Rama in
the epic Ramayana was about to leave his kingdom for 14 years.  He asked his followers that “all men and
women should return to city” among his followers Hijras alone did feel bond to
his direction and did not leave. Impressed with their loyalty, Rama sanctioned
them with the power to give blessings to people in auspicious occasions like
child birth and marriage, and also inaugural functions where Hijras sing and
dance and confer blessing. Aravan the son of Arjuna and Nagakanya in
Mahabharatha offers to be sacrificed to the goddess Kali to ensure victory in
Kurukshetra war. The only condition that he made was to spend his last night in
marriage. Since no women was ready to marry who was doomed to be killed,
Krishna takes the form of a beautiful women called Mohini and married him. The
Hijras of Tamilnadu considerd Aravan as their proctor and calls themselves

During the
Mugal Period, Hijras played an important role in royal courts and they held
positions of political advisers, Administrators etc. Hijras were considered
clever, trustworthy and loyal, and had a free access to all spaces and sections
of population, there by played a crucial role in the politics of Mugal Empire.

Invisibility age of Transgenders in India: the British period

During the
British period in India,  Hijras started
having adverse situations. From 18th century, colonial rule, the
situation changed drastically. The Europeans had repulsion towards Hijras and
the respect given to them in the royal court and other places. In the 19th
century British Colonial administration tried to criminalize Hijra community
and deny their right. The colonial administration considered Hijras as a
separate cast or tribe and in the Criminal Tribe act 1871 included all Hijras
who were concerned in Kidnaping and castrating and dressed like a women to
dance in public places.  The punishment
for the activities were two years of imprisonment and fine or both. Also the
land given to Hijra community by Kings were taken back. Like the Criminal Tribe
act, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was also introduced during
colonial rule. The section banned homosexual relationships and it is also known
as the “Antie Sodomy Law”. These laws paved the foundations of discrimination
against transgender community in India. Later the post independent era
established laws such as IPC 377 which again resulted in the marginalization of
Transgender community. 

Transgenders in Kerala

state Government introduced the Kerala state policy for Transgenders in 2015 to
address the injustice that’s faced by the Transgender community in Kerala.
However the policy is still tied to
the red ribbons of government files. 
Queer pride rallies play a vital role in addressing the visibility of
transgender community in Kerala.

Kerala has
been involved in Transgender rights with strong moves such as introducing Sex
Reassignment Surgery in Government Hospitals. The district of Kannur has
allotted a part of its budget for the skill education of Transgender community.

MP Sri Sashi Tharoor is one of the strong proponents of LGBTQIA rights in
Kerala. He has introduced a private members bill twice in Lok Sabha for the
repulsion of Session 377 IPC.

In the year
2016, the first Transgender School was opened in Kochi, Kerala. This school had
facility to prepare students for 10th and +2 board exams and to
provide vocational trainings. Transgender activist Vijayaraja Mallika is the
head of this school.

Metro employed 23 Transgenders. They were
deployed in different sections including housekeeping and ticketing session.
This was the first time a government owned company to provide bulk job for

the Kerala state poverty eradication mission started six Kudumbashree units
(SHG) only for Transgenders in Kerala. Udayam, a Kudumbashree unit was started
in Thiruvananthapuram district under Kunumkuzhy Corporation, on 8th February
2017 and Manaswini, a Kudumbasree unit Started on 16th February 2017 are
believed to be the fore runners of the mission. There are two units each in
three districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam and Malapuram.

The main
objective of the programme is to bring the marginalised transgender community
to the mainstream, provide them with a steady source of income and to reach out
and provide them with respectable employment though the neighbourhood SHGs.
Unlike the other Kudumbashree units the Kudumbashree for transgenders is a
special Kudumbashree. In other units women of
the same locality is placed under one unit. But in the case of these special
units, there are not that many transgenders in the same locality so as to form
the group. So community members from different localities are collected
together under one local unit. 

Case Study

Mx. Chinju
the second participant of the current study is 40-year-old Male to female
Transgender living in Trivandrum and hails from a middle-class family residing
in a rural area. Ze is the president of famous CBO in Trivandrum city which
concerns about the transgender welfare and mainstreaming. Ze completed zir
pre-degree education. Currently ze unemployed so working in Nagercoil as a Sex

Ze was born
in a family where zir father and brothers never cared about zir mother. Ze
loved zir very much. To make mother happy ze helped zir and sometimes wore zir
dresses also. Zir family consisted of six members, they were a father, mother,
and four sons. Because of her father’s excessive drinking habit, ze hated
father and her affection for mother naturally grown strong. 

Later in
schools teachers attracted zir attention. At home played like teachers and
mother. A great aversion towards boyish games arose during the childhood.
Adolescent years were full of confusion and ambiguity because of sexual
attraction towards boys and men. Whenever girls were around ze was happy but
afraid of boys. 

A great
turn happened during adolescent years was zir affection towards one of zir
cousin. Ze proposed him but he refused with verbal abuse. Ze took over zir
family business as a revenge to show zir cousin ze was capable for look after
zirself without the help of anybody. 

Father died
when ze was 25 years old. Funeral brought zir old lover to zir home. After the
funeral at home, he drank a lot of alcohol which is a normal thing in Kerala
society. While he was intoxicated by alcohol ze had taken advantage. Ze seduced
him to sexual intercourse. Ze

that that is the fulfillment of 10 years of waiting. After the incident, he
unofficially married to zir. Again zir husband fell in love with another woman.
To fulfill his dream ze let him marry. 

from the husband was a devastating effect on zir. So zir family accepted zir.
On one condition ze should wear manly clothes around zir neighborhood. Ze tried
several jobs but most of them were pushed zir way because of gender identity
and also family threw away zir from the family business. 35 years old penury
life was a hardship for zir. 

Ze knew
that there is a Transgender community in Nagarkoil, Tamilnadu. Ze went there
and they accepted zir as their chela. Nayak is the leader of Hijra community.
Chela is the adopted daughter of Nayak. When Nayak adopt a transgender ze
become a member of the community. And also they form a Jamaat (a meeting of
Nayaks from another Transgender community) to adopt zir as their member. They
fix a price on zir i.e chela cannot leave the community unless the amount which
jamaat decides on them. If chela decides to join another community or run away
from the group, community or family members should pay the amount. Chela has to
work for the Nayak. Work can be begging, sex work, blessing the people at their
homes or religious ceremonies. Chinju did all sort of work for zir Nayak.
Everyday ze has to pay half of zir earning. As life moves miserable. 

One of zir
friends introduced zir to CBO working for the welfare of transgender. Now
Chinju is the president of Ngo and also happily working under Nayak. Nayak gave
permission to work. When ze is in Kerala ze has to wear manly clothes but in
NGO and Nagarcoil ze can crossdress. Ze is a volunteer in NGO so still ze working
as a sex worker and begging streets of Nagarcoil. 


problems are a result of a mismatch between an individual’s expectations and
needs and what the society expects or is able to offer. Psychosocial problems
affect our Quality of life, our self-esteem and the extent to which we are able
to relate to others. Transgender persons face innumerable difficulties in their
day to day existence. The uncommonness of their identities breeds fear and is
responsible for people posing a negative
attitude towards them. The present study investigated the psycho social
problems of transgenders and the attitudes held by people towards transgenders.
Social Visibility comes from the acceptance in the culture and society. It
increases a person’s involvement in social situations and result in a better
development of personality. The discrimination and stigma faced by transgender
community in Kerala results in the marginalization of Transgender community.

Transgender Community was given great respect during the Vedic period and Mugal
rule. But later on during the British rule they had to face many issues which
resulted in the marginalization of Transgender community in India. The
understanding about transgender community is one of the key factors which helps
the policy makers and researchers to conceptualize better programs for this
vulnerable community. Participants have shared that their childhood was very
painful and they were not happy with family support. They have also voiced
about the scarcity of care and protection from the society. Their gender
identity was perceived even under the presence of strong negligence and painful
experience induced by society through various social interactions .  All
participants identified self-being resilient by overcoming one or more of the following adverse conditions:
unemployment, experiences of transphobia, violence, employment discrimination, and negative public. The government should eradicate the stigma, discrimination and human rights violation
against transgender community and educate the
public about gender and sexuality.  

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