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“Eunuchs: India’s Third Gender”
Wed Feb 13, 7:00 PM
Lamakaan An Open Cultural Space
“Eunuchs: India’s Third Gender”, exploring the ancient tradition of the Hijras of India and how their life style has changed from healing gurus to prostitution in modern India.

Michael Yorke : As an anthropologist I had always relied on talking to the Indian Hijra community wherever I was doing research. They had some of the most analytical and critical minds among rural agricultural people. Not having access to land in a patriarchal society, and not being able to nurture a family, they were a community of people who relied on their wits, intellect and intelligence to make a living. Whenever I needed to know why a tradition was followed, they never jut said “because my grandfather did it”; they would search out the human motivations and historical reasons for habitual mode of conduct. They were a people always free from received ideas. They were an uninhibited group of free-thinkers. They were the most valuable informants an anthropologist could have.

While discussing this with a friend of mine in Delhi, who had once married into a grand Rajasthani regal family, she said that when living in an old fashioned zenana, she had relied on the Hijra guards of the zenana to adjust to her new life. So together we determined to make a film exploring the profound and ancient tradition that India maintains to accommodation people of transgender inclinations in a society where masculine and feminine role are so widely separated. Her contact with the ancient and traditional hijras of Ajmer gave us the most extraordinary access to this otherwise hidden and deeply private world, that finally took us into the world of modern hijra prostitutes in Hijra Gully in Mumbai.

This film is an anthropological insight and analysis into the ancient Indian tradition of transgenderism for a western audience where transgender issues have only recently become an issue of great social concern.