Of Hijras, Cross-dressing and gender bending

Third gender recognition in Germany and Bangladesh…

Hijras now a separate gender

by Mohosinul Karim

They will be referred to as Hijras in both English and Bangla

Hijras, who are neither male nor female, from now on will be considered as a separate gender in Bangladesh and will get priority for education and other rights.

The decision was made at a Monday cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan briefed the media after the meeting.

Journalists asked Musharraf whether the spelling of Hijra would be spelled with a “z or a j.”

“With a j. They will be referred as Hijras in both English and Bangla language. Any other translations in English is misleading,” the cabinet secretary said.

There are currently 10,000 Hijras living in the country he said, referring to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Welfare.

This has led the government to consider them as a separate gender alongside the existing male and female sexes, he said.

Hijras are already enlisted as voters in Bangladesh.

The move comes as the current government’s term draws to a close.

The Bangladeshi decision comes on the heels of the German government’s move to recognize the status of those of indeterminate gender. According to a Huffington Post article:

As of November, Germany will be the first country in Europe to offer a “third gender” distinction on its birth certificates.

A new German law stipulates that children who are born of indeterminate gender no longer have to be categorized as “male” or “female.” Instead, parents can choose to leave the space blank on their child’s birth certificate, according to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Those individuals can eventually decide whether to identify as male, female or neither.

There is a large Hijra community in India as well. Not sure if they have legal rights but their existence is socially accepted and recognized though they are by and large treated as outcastes. Below is an excerpt from a first person account by one of them:

Then there’s Kamal. He was the only son of an Ulhasnagar businessman. But from childhood he was fond of cross-dressing; wearing a sari and make-up. The family dismissed this as a kid’s fancy. But one day Kamal told his family: “I will not be able to live as you want me to, as a male.” Saying this, he left home. His best friends were Shiba and Vinnie, and all three of them became my chelas. Kamal’s folks landed up at my place in Thane. They were comforted to learn that their only son was safe and sound, and that we lived together as a family. Today, Kamal’s folks have opened their doors to her. Sometimes she goes home on overnight visits. She’s not in the family business of course, but works instead in a dance bar. She hands over her earnings to her folks, believing it to be her duty, though her parents are well-off and do not need her money.

A colleague at UWI, Julian Cresser, alerted me to the following. I had no idea:

Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), formerly known as testicular feminization, is an X-linked recessive condition resulting in a failure of normal masculinization of the external genitalia in chromosomally male individuals. This failure of virilization can be either complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) or partial androgen insensitivity syndrome (PAIS), depending on the amount of residual receptor function.

Both individuals with partial androgen insensitivity syndrome and individuals with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome have 46,XY karyotypes. Individuals with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome have female external genitalia with normal labia, clitoris, and vaginal introitus.[1, 2, 3, 4] The phenotype of individuals with partial androgen insensitivity syndrome may range from mildly virilized female external genitalia (clitorimegaly without other external anomalies) to mildly undervirilized male external genitalia (hypospadias and/or diminished penile size). See the image below.

Penoscrotal hypospadias is shown. Note the associaPenoscrotal hypospadias is shown. Note the associated ventral chordee and true urethral meatus located at the scrotal level.In either case, affected individuals have normal testes with normal production of testosterone and normal conversion to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which differentiates this condition from 5-alpha reductase deficiency. Because the testes produce normal amounts of müllerian-inhibiting factor (MIF), also known as müllerian-inhibiting substance (MIS) or anti-müllerian hormone/factor (AMH/AMF), affected individuals do not have fallopian tubes, a uterus, or a proximal (upper) vagina.

For squeamish Jamaicans who insist that no such thing as ‘trans gender’ exists here try acquainting yourselves with the story of British socialite Lady Colin Campbell. Not only were her roots Jamaican she was born trans gendered much to the horror of her Jamaican father who reportedly advised her to take poison:

Lady Colin Campbell is one of our most flamboyant socialites. The 64-year-old is best known for her royal biographies, in particular her book, Diana in Private (“One of my closest friends was one of her closest friends”), which caused a sensation when it was published, with its revelations about Diana’s eating disorders, affair with James Hewitt and tales of marital strife, prior to Andrew Morton’s biography. She was dismissed as a fantasist, only to be later vindicated.

But royal scandals are as nothing in comparison with the roller coaster that has been Lady Colin’s own life. Born into Jamaica’s prominent Ziadie family, she gained her aristocratic title on marrying Colin Campbell, younger brother of the 12th Duke of Argyll in 1974. But when they broke up acrimoniously, she claims he sold the tabloids the – inaccurate – story that she had been born a boy.

Her outrage at his betrayal is undimmed with time. “I bitterly resent it, I resented it then, I resent it now and I will resent it until my dying day,” she says in her endearing half-Jamaican, half-upper-crust accent. “It was wildly inappropriate.”

Finally would love to know more about this. Grateful for any information, I don’t read the papers anymore and may have missed updates.

Corroborated: Crossdresser found dead in St. Catherine

03/11/2013 15:16:00

The body of 19-year-old Britney Ebanks o/c “Luke” was found on Thursday, October 31 in the community of Central Village, St. Catherine. The former winner of a “Miss World 2012” contest was reported missing on Sunday October 27, 2013 after failing to arrive at the home of friends that night. Residents stumbled upon the body on October 31 and summoned the police. The scene processed before the body was removed to the morgue.

A Hate Story: Reflections on the Death of Dwayne Jones

Jamaican society’s contradictory responses towards its own Trayvon Martins.

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The Trayvon Martin case has been keenly followed in Jamaica with people vociferously expressing outrage over the not guilty verdict that allowed Zimmerman to walk free. How could there be no legal penalty for unnecessarily taking a human life? How could the law protect Zimmerman’s right to stand his ground but not Trayvon’s? This was madness. Many Jamaicans keenly identified with Trayvon and his family, imagining that this was something that could easily happen to them or their loved ones in racist North America.

All over the Caribbean those with a human rights perspective were eager to point out that similar outrage was rarely forthcoming in numerous local instances of flagrant injustice, often involving victims of police and vigilante killings where the perpetrators are almost never held responsible for their crimes. Why were such folk, unmoved by the wanton killing of fellow citizens in their own backyard, so willing to take such an interest in a case so distant from their immediate lives and localities?

Clearly we must attribute some or most of that interest to the intense coverage of the case by mainstream media in the United States. Channels such as CNN, MSNBC, ABC and others are available via cable and voraciously consumed in Jamaica and many other parts of the world. It’s not difficult to get sucked in by the wall-to-wall coverage of a murder trial for weeks on end, particularly when its racial component resonates locally. This was the case with the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Let’s also give credit where credit is due. American media excel at focusing attention on the human interest in a story; at laying open the lives and personalities of those concerned, at making the viewer identify with the principals of a high profile news item. This is why the world cares more about 500 victims of a natural disaster in the US as opposed to 150,000 deaths caused by a Bangladeshi cyclone or an earthquake in Turkey.  American media puts faces on the victims, details their losses, personalizes them. The 150,000 victims of a distant cyclone remain just that—faceless, lifeless, abstract ciphers.

Not many countries have the sheer heft of media muscle that the USA can lay claim to. Our media in small places like Jamaica lack the infrastructure, the traction and the reach of American media. We also have far more deaths, murders and killings per capita than the media can possibly keep up with even if they had the will and the ability to do so.

Even in the United States there were complaints that cases just as heinous as Trayvon Martin’s or worse had received little or no visibility and thus generated little or no outrage. What makes a particular story a media sensation depends on the number of people who feel affected by it. Can they can identify with it?   But this is also a function of how much airtime and column inches the story receives.

In Jamaica the media almost never gives you enough information or gives it to you after the fact as in the case of the Brissett Brothers accused of the vicious rape of 4 women and an 8-year old girl. Now that DNA evidence has proven that they couldn’t have been the perpetrators the media has interviewed them at length, along with their family members who had given them a cast iron alibi, and basically got the story out. Had there been no DNA evidence the brothers would have been wrongfully convicted raising uncomfortable questions about how many such innocent people there are in prison.

The ongoing saga of Vybz Kartel raises similar questions. One murder charge has completely crumbled and the other may do the same, yet Kartel has been held without bail for more than a year now.

Alexis Goffe,  a spokesperson for the human rights group Jamaicans for Justice, recently observed that another reason there is little or no outrage about the legion of local Trayvons is that in these situations most educated Jamaicans identify with Zimmerman rather than Trayvon. Jamaicans are not Trayvon Martin, Jamaicans are George Zimmerman said Goffe.  After all Trayvon’s profile fits that of the ‘idle youth’ most gated and residential communities in Jamaica remain wary of and police zealously. They want the Jamaican equivalents of Trayvon Martin to be kept in their place, on pain of severe punishment and even death. Since the start of the year Jamaican Police have killed 114 citizens, yet it’s business as usual in this tourist paradise.

For most Jamaicans such deaths when they happen are non-stories–like the slaying of young Dwayne Jones aka Gully Queen a few days ago near Montego Bay. 17-year old Jones was at a party on the night of July 22 dressed as a female and dancing when he was outed by a woman who knew he was cross-dressing. Details are sketchy but early reports said that Jones was killed by a mob that stabbed and shot him to death, flinging his body into nearby bushes.

In most countries a lynching such as this would be front-page news but not in Jamaica, known far and wide for its hostility towards homosexuals. The police have said that they can’t prove that there is a link between Dwayne’s cross-dressing and his murder and the media has barely taken note of the gruesome slaying. Judging by comments made on social media most Jamaicans think Dwayne Jones brought his death on himself for wearing a dress and dancing in a society that has made it abundantly clear that homosexuals are neither to be seen nor heard.

Attempts to portray the mob killing as a hate crime have also been futile. “Dwayne Jones chose to tempt fate” seems to be the popular feeling, “and he got what was coming to him.” Which is like saying Trayvon Martin tempted fate by lingering in the wrong neighbourhood; he got what was coming to him. Dwayne Jones decided to wear a dress and dance and for that he was put to death by a motley crowd. Most Jamaicans seem to think there is nothing at all wrong with this judging by the lack of outrage, scant media attention and silence from the political directorate.

The Senseless Death of Dwayne Jones aka Gully Queen

Laments the killing of Gully Queen, a young transgendered male, by a mob at a party near Montego Bay.

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gullyqueen3 gullyqueen4

I’ve been very disturbed by the wanton slaying of the young wo/man in these photographs, Dwayne Jones. S/he was killed on Monday night in St. James, not far from Montego Bay, the tourism capital of Jamaica. As the excerpt quoted below says, Dwayne was killed after a woman recognized him and irresponsibly outed him at a party he attended cross-dressed in female clothes.

I think this woman should be identified and made an example of, don’t you? She must be sanctioned for needlessly endangering the life of a Jamaican citizen. And the media should treat this as the front page story it really is. Had Dwayne Jones come from Cherry Gardens or Norbrook, there wouldn’t have been another news item in Jamaica since Monday. But poor Dwayne was just a Gully person, worse he was an effeminate trans gendered Gully person…no space for him, no place, no grace, only jungle justice.

As a friend observed on Facebook:

Ignorant Hateful Jamaicans carry out their god’s commands.

The following excerpt is from the Minority-Insights blog:

On July 22, 2013 Dwayne Jones a Trans-gender otherwise known as “GULLY QUEEN” and “Dwayne Gagastar Trensetta” was shot and stabbed to death in the Irwin community, St James.
According to Iriefm news report, “the 17-year-old was dressed as a female and was dancing with a male, when a woman at the party recognized him and told other patrons that he was not a woman, but a male. One of the men at the party accosted the teen and conducted a search where he discovered that the teen was not a female. A mob then descended on the teen and chopped and stabbed him to death, before dumping his body in bushes along the Orange main road.”

Furthermore, the Jamaica-Gleaner reported that, “a number of explosions were heard and the police were summoned. They discovered Jones’ body on the roadway, with multiple stab wounds and a gunshot wound.” No arrest has been made.

For more click here.