The Gender Spectrum: Voices from India’s Transgender Community

Since ancient times, gender has been both a common topic as well as a taboo one. Tracing the history of gender in India, it’s evident that the perception of gender has evolved. In the past, literature depicted an open acceptance of gender diversity, with the third gender being an integral part of society alongside male and female genders. However, in transgender writings, both gender and sexuality have been grounds for non-acceptance in society as they challenge the established norms. While this topic is extensive and complex, focusing on the available literature in India can provide valuable insights into the experiences of transgenders in the country.

The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story is an autobiography by A. Revathi, one of the most prominent transgender rights activists. Revathi was born as a boy but soon faced a gender identity crisis. The book chronicles Revathi’s life as a transgender person, detailing the ridicule, violence, and abuse she experienced at home and in the outside world. Revathi ran away to Delhi to join the hijra community, where she officially became a member. The book also covers her physical transformation from male to female, the series of abuses she endured for being a hijra, and her eventual rise as a transgender rights activist.

Life in Trans Activism: A. Revathi’s 2016 book Life in Trans Activism discusses the often-marginalized experiences of transgender individuals. The book explores her work at Sangama, an NGO that supports transgender people, and her journey from an office assistant to the organization’s director. Revathi’s unique focus on the lives of female-to-male transition is a rare and valuable contribution. Additionally, she shares her experiences as a traveler, her efforts to amplify her voice in different parts of the world, and her collaborations with performative art groups.

Me Hijra Me Laxmi: Laxmi Narayan Tripathi has been a prominent figure in transgender rights activism in India. She has appeared at conferences and on famous TV channels to share her voice. “Me Hijra Me Laxmi” is her autobiography, in which she shares her life story as a transgender person, similar to Revathi. Laxmi’s autobiography chronicles her many love relationships, her journey as a dancer, the discrimination she faced due to her sexuality, her resilience in the face of physical and emotional abuse, and her rise as an activist. The book was originally published in Marathi and later translated into English by R. Raj Rao and P.G. Joshi.

Red Lipstick: The Men in My Life: In her second book, Red Lipstick, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi discusses the various men who have entered her life and the different roles they have played: creators, preservers, lovers, benefactors, and abusers. The book is a bold and insightful exploration of a brave new world through Laxmi’s perspective.

A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi: The book is an extraordinary story of a transgender individual’s remarkable journey to becoming the first transgender principal in the country. Co-authored by Manobi Bandopadhyay and Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey, it was published in 2017. Born as a boy named Somnath, Manobi felt like she was trapped in a male body and identified as a woman. Her transformation from Somnath to Manobi is a story of resilience, determination, and honesty. Despite facing numerous challenges, Manobi pursued her academics and eventually earned a PhD.

I am Vidya: The book is an autobiography by Living Smile Vidya. Unlike any other book in the genre, Vidya’s narrative not only highlights the struggle of a transgender individual, but also sheds light on the caste system still prevalent in Indian society and how it continues to shape the lives of people. Vidya holds a master’s degree in linguistics, but her decision to undergo gender transformation led her to earn a living by begging on trains before she pursued writing as a form of activism.

About Author /

Deepika Rai is a PhD research scholar at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, India. She has written a handful of short stories and research articles. Her first story "Not Until She Gets It Back" was published in The Tribune, “Nomad” in Fiction Quest and her recent story "Standing on the 26th stair was published in prestigious The Statesman. Deepika has been working as a freelance content writer for a long time. An art lover, she has also worked as a teacher, and pencil sketching is one of her hobbies. Besides her teaching and research career, she has two art exhibitions to her credit.

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