Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Can't Believe You Laugh At This: The Edition Of Just Why I Want To Live In A Cave

This is a guest post by Jaded 16

image Jaded16 is a Radical Feminist from India. She writes a humour blog ‘Oi With The Poodles Already’, attempting to make her world a little woman-friendly using healthy doses of irony and sarcasm to de-condition the Indian masses. It is at times like these when she loses all her sense of humour and starts looking for a rock big enough to live under.

Dear BLOG! reading person,

I have to warn you early enough today. This letter you see before you is actually a rant. A long winded-one at that. So, if you're in no mood to listen to me rant (again), you can leave. I seriously don't want any more e-mails detailing just why do I rant and what's so wrong with it. Now that all the troll-people have gone, let's get on with our usual LadyBusiness shall we?

It comes as no surprise that I love watch mind-numbingly horrid T.V. shows; it's a real problem with no visible cure. So today, while I fed my weekly need to pierce my eyeballs out addiction, something terrible happened. It happened. Indian T.V. has finally managed to completely repulse me by just a three-minute dance performance. Every time I see something terrible, I promise myself I won't watch the show again. Sure enough, next week I am on my position on the couch, waiting for the horror to unfold.

This show I talk of is called 'Zara Nachke Dikha' which is probably the Indian version of 'Dancing With The Stars' -- only the stars are divided into two teams : Men Vs Women. This week the theme was 'fusion'. This is an opportunity for the contestants to mix Western and traditional Indian dance styles. Apparently contestant Siddhesh Pai  interpreted this theme to 'fusing genders'. Just peachy.

The dance performance is set to an 'item-number' genre of songs (These songs are typically identified with courtesans and prostitutes), where the contestant is dressed as a woman first and then quickly changes back to his usual masculine self. As it is a 'second-grade' song, this gender subversion is ignored. The audience looks at the dancing prowess of the contestant, how effortlessly he dances like a woman, how equally effortlessly he changes to his shiny silver costume, giving out a ton of dude-ittude one moment, shifting to feminine seduction next. This can possibly be an extremely warped version of Woolf's Orlando on an alternate universe. You can hear people cheering, the judges laughing, while I seethed in fury from my position in front of the T.V.

The Indian Transsexual
The Indian Transsexual

This is certainly not the first time transgender and trans-sexual identities have been an object of ridicule. It's de rigueur for stand up comedians and script-writers to use trans-sexuality as a joke. After all, transsexuals in India are nothing but a joke. A man who actually has LadyBits? Or a woman who is born with the cumbersome male-appendage? Nothing provides better fodder for jokes and mockathons. They are called hijra and chakka -- derogatory words that symbolise their "incomplete-ness".

The trans-sexual community is a grossly marginalised one; people literally walk away when they see them. We see them at road signals, dressed in sarees, walking in packs of two's and three's. They beg for money, tease the taxi driver, laugh and walk away. As a child, I was scared of them mainly because I didn't know who they were. When my mum explained to me that they were "half and half", I realised they were people too.

"Trans-sexuals are those people on the street who clap in that peculiar way to announce their arrival" say some people as a way of explanation. "Give them money, they'll go away. Otherwise they touch you with those hands" admonished my aunt. I didn't fully gauge this marginalization till I read the 'Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini -- my first brush with the notion that transgender isn't always necessarily a choice here. Who knew being cisgendered would turn out to be a privilege one day?

"These hijras are all prostitutes Madam. They like it" tells the watchman near the red light area. As I talked to Maya, a trans-woman and sex-worker for the past 12 years, she says, "Men come to us. We're women down there. They don't mind it even if we don't have the upper half of women's bodies". She adds, "Little boys make the best dancers. If you train them well enough, they can soon forget what they were before". As I stared at her, she huffed angrily, "We give little lost boys a home. They'd be rotting in the gutters otherwise". There are boys as young as 6 or 7 years old, dressed as girls; laughing at a distance. What my too brief visit to the trans-sexual commune didn't highlight are the weekly visits by policemen and officers (as free customers) ; the harassment they face on the streets, how some young boys are castrated to make them follow the transsexual way of living, the underground prostitution rings and of course, the status of being less than a 'second-grade' citizen.

This being only the modicum of issues that surround trans-sexuality, it's really appalling to see the media so shamelessly USING them to laugh and joke. As seen in the dance above, even in concepts as harmless as 'dance fusion' trans-sexuality is used to get points and appreciation from the audience.

For that last time I want to say - Trans-sexuality isn't a joke. It's not a disease. Crouching away from the hijra that comes along your vehicle in a traffic jam or just dismissing them with some loose change isn't a part of the solution anymore. They are P-E-O-P-L-E. They deserve to be treated so.

An extremely Jaded16.