We spent a lot of time this term talking about third gender. In that time, we also talked about why calling it third gender is problematic. For instance, some feel that it’s a ‘dumpster gender’ – the gender category where everything that doesn’t fit into the gender binary goes. Still, its useful to think outside of the gender binary and look at groups of people around the world who are stretching the definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman.
Today the NYT ran an article called Bangladesh’s Third Gender on their Lens site. Here are some interesting quotes, and terms, pulled from the article.
Hijras: The local term for the culture of men who identify sexually as women.
Bangladesh is the world’s fourth most populous Muslim country.
Typically, hijras, whom the government of Bangladesh officially recognized as a third gender in 2014, live under the protection of gurus, and perform various activities in the streets, dressed as women, to earn money.
While many hijras emigrate to India, where they are accepted in Hindu culture, those who remain in Bangladesh are rarely harmed, Ms. Sharmin said, because they hold a unique role in society. Hijras who live in the traditional way earn a living by officiating at celebrations, and causing disturbances in the streets, yelling and screaming, until shopkeepers pay them to leave.
The hijras work under a guru who takes 50 percent of their earnings, Ms. Sharmin said, in return for providing health care, retirement wages and protection from the police when they are harassed or arrested on prostitution charges.
Bangladesh’s hijras held their first Pride Parade last year.
As is typical for many identities, the hijras experienced distancing, strained relationships, and abuse from their families. They hope that at one point, their families would accept them, and they would no longer need a guru for this kind of care.