Much rejoicing as Bangladesh gains its first transgender newsreader. Matters are not, however, quite as some will seem to think:
To cheers from colleagues, Bangladesh’s first transgender news presenter broke down in tears , but only after her word-perfect debut was beamed to the nation and the cameras were off.
Bangladesh is home to an estimated 1.5 million transgender people, who face rampant discrimination and violence and are often forced to live by begging, the sex trade or crime.
The experience of Tashnuva Anan Shishir, who delivered the three-minute news bulletin on the private Boishakhi TV on Monday, was typical.
Born Kamal Hossain Shishir, she discovered in her early teens she was trapped in a man’s body. She says she was sexually assaulted and bullied for years.
It is, of course, entirely excellent that Ms. Shishir has found the correct shaped hole in life into which she fits.
What is going to happen here though is that the varied trans activists here are going to hold this up as some grand advance in what we should be doing. At which point we do actually need to point something out:
Hijras are officially recognized as third gender in the Indian subcontinent, being considered neither completely male nor female.
Which isn’t what our local activists claim at all, is it?
In South Asia, the hijra are referred to as a third gender, as a group of transgender women and non-binary and intersex people who were assigned male at birth. Some estimates suggest that more than 10 000 hijras live in Bangladesh, whereas others indicate there are more than 100 000.
That’s The Lancet, Third gender – and the number is significantly disputed as can be seen.
Yes, I have indeed met a couple although not availed myself of any of their professional services:
The transgender people (hijra), who claim to be neither male nor female, are socially excluded in Bangladesh.
That’s the National Institute of Health over in the US. Third gender again.
Shanta meticulously applies chalk-white foundation to her cheeks and touches up the black eyeliner which frames her dark eyes.
It’s a scene of everyday domesticity but Shanta and her friends are not ordinary young women – they are Hijra, born as male but now belonging to a third gender.
The Telegraph is unlikely to be enlightened on such matters but they do seem to be in agreement with the medial literature here.
On January 26, 2014, the Bangladesh cabinet announced the recognition of a third gender category in its gazette with a single-sentence: “The Government of Bangladesh has recognized the Hijra community of Bangladesh as a Hijra sex.” This circular represented a significant step toward securing a range of human rights for Bangladesh’s hijras—people who, assigned “male” at birth, identify as feminine later in life and prefer to be recognized as hijra or a third gender.
Human Rights Watch there – third gender.
Many in the transgender community identify as a third gender which is now officially recognised in the country.
The BBC. Third gender.
The claim being made upon our own sceptered and silver girt isles is that those putting on a frock and having their knackers chopped become women in every sense of that word. It is a wholesale violation of their human rights to be denied any even fraction of the treatment given to women. Even to call them a bloke in a frock is such a horror that it must be pilloried.
There will be those who will now insist that the hijra are proof that things can be different. Which, indeed, they can. That subcontinent manner of dealing with matters actually being both he liberal and, dare this gammon say it, correct method.
Anyone and everyone has the right to live their life, absent third party harm, as they wish. Our defence of this is both moral and ethical and also tinged with a certain self-interest. We get to splutter into our cornflakes as we wish, so does everyone else. So, the wearing of dresses, the chopping of knackers, as long as it’s all consenting adults then live your life as you wish.
But, as with the hijra where the society has been dealing with it for thousands of years, to be as is not to be is. A distinction is still made between those who start as then change and those who start and continue.
As PJ O’Rourke has pointed out more generally about sex, sometimes it’s important to distinguish – when making babies – and sometimes it’s important not to – trading bonds.
All of which does give us the proper liberal response here. We refer, as the subcontinent does, to those exercising their righteous freedoms as hijra. Most of the time, near all of it, this collapses down into being female. It’s just that at times it doesn’t for this is a third form, not a move between two.