Despite the fact that hijras are classified as neither men nor women, they identify solely with the female gender. They are very proud of their femininity and enjoy dressing up in sarees, salwar-kameez (a long Indian shirt worn with baggy pants,) and western clothing. They wear traditional Indian female adornments such as earrings, necklaces, bangles, anklets, and the bindi, and grow their hair long like women (the round, usually red dot that adorns the forehead of Hindu women.) My interactions with hijras across India have shown that they like to enhance their femininity. They sway their hips provocatively, walk with a swinging gate, and converse and gesticulate more dramatically than genetic females. Hijras getting their eyebrows groomed, legs waxed, or a facial is not uncommon nowadays, with beauty parlors springing up in every corner of India.
Hijras compete in beauty pageants to help them showcase their femininity and talents. A friend told me about a transgender beauty pageant held at the Beiga Chandra Open Air Theatre (BOAT) in Manipur. According to reports, 33 candidates from various states in North-Eastern India competed in the competition, which took place on January 17th, 2003. Like in any other beauty pageant, the competitors were judged on their height, weight, general knowledge, abilities, and other personality traits. According to my friend, the transgender people who had been judged were as attractive, poised, and self-assured as genetic women. Their participation in the beauty pageant was motivated by a strong desire to be accepted as “normal” and to demonstrate to the rest of society that they, too, are human beings deserving of equal chances and involvement.
One of my personal highlights was being crowned Miss Koovagam, a transsexual beauty pageant conducted every year in May as part of the Koovagam festivities. As I sat down in one of the seats, I was met with a moderately sized stage. The judges of the Koovagam beauty pageant sat in neatly placed chairs on the stage, unlike the judges of previous beauty pageants, who sat on a panel facing the platform. The stage backdrop was a massive billboard with sentences inscribed on it in a language I didn’t understand (presumably, it was in Tamil). Dusky young (and not so young) transgender ladies strolled on stage with confidence and panache, clothed in a variety of eastern and western attire. Each contestant received thunderous acclaim from the audience and encouragement from the judges in the form of smiles. At the conclusion of the pageant, “Miss Koovagam” was crowned, and the two runners-up received sashes and bouquets. The ceremony ended in a flurry of goodwill, camaraderie, and PDA, with judges and victors exchanging warm hugs and bold lip-to-lip kisses.
Hijras are drawn to guys since they identify as females and use the feminine pronoun to describe themselves. Because most hijras are born in male bodies, they may be classified as “gay” by default. Homosexuality is defined as “carnal intercourse against the law of nature” in Article 377 of the Indian Constitution, which makes it a criminal offense. Some hijras may have gone out of business as a result of the country’s top court reiterating article 377. Despite the fact that hijras are generally “gay,” some have been known to sleep with women.
I have been a story writer since 1998 and have published many novels/novellas in both English and Japanese. Protagonists of the following fictions are Hijras – including ordinary males who turn into Hijras over the course of the story: