First, hijras make a pledge to hand over all earnings to the guru, who in exchange supports them inside what is effectively an alternative home as most hijras are runaways or evicted by their families. As the male form is cast off for the female, initiates cannot cut their hair or shave their face. Aher says the fight is not over. Of the recent legal ruling, recognizing transgender Indians as a third gender, she says: There is limited data on the estimated population of India's transgender community, but anecdotal evidence puts it between a half a million to two million individuals. They then start going out in public as females.
Though visible in public, their world is often shrouded in secrecy. Today, hijras can also be aggressive, especially when not handed money as they wend their way through traffic, begging. The son of a single mother who nurtured a love of dance, Aher would watch enthralled as she performed. Aher recalls being turned away by 17 hotels in a row while on a business trip in the Indian state of Kerala, which is thought to be more enlightened on gender attitudes than other states. And Aher obliged so as not to bring "shame" on her mother. First, hijras make a pledge to hand over all earnings to the guru, who in exchange supports them inside what is effectively an alternative home as most hijras are runaways or evicted by their families. They then start going out in public as females. All the while, Aher's desire to change gender was growing. Joining this group that traces its roots back to antiquity is not something to be taken lightly. I used to watch myself, how I walk, how I talk, how I behave, how I dress up, just to hide my sexuality, just to fit into the heterosexual world," Aher says. It is applied to persons whose gender identity does not conform to their biological sex. The sweeping decision redefines their rights and the state's obligation to them as one of India's most marginalized groups. Traditional "pluckers" from the hijra community pluck all the hair the faces of the initiates. Aher's teacher was no source of comfort: But Aher has triumphed in the workplace: It can be psychologically and physically traumatic; there's body-altering hormone treatment, often followed by operations to reassign sexual organs in a process known as "feminization. To resolve the deepening complexities of the teenager's sexual identity, a psychiatrist prescribed sitting "in a dark room" and taking two Tylenol. Of her painful physical and psychological transformation, Aher remembers now: Castration surgeries cost a similar amount. Born a boy biologically and given the male name Abhijit, Aher grew up in a middle-class neighborhood of Mumbai, India. With his mother working as a clerk in the state government, Aher was raised by a maid who indulged the fantasies of an only child, including a fascination with a mother's jingling anklets. Opponents of the law argue that the penal code established by the British Raj in prohibiting "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" infringes on fundamentals rights of privacy and expression and has no place in modern India. Of the recent legal ruling, recognizing transgender Indians as a third gender, she says: Aher says the fight is not over. The physical toll is high as well.
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