This article argues that religious mythologies and cultural narratives about the timelessness of gender diversity in South Asia frame the formation of the transgender subject of rights in India. The authors interrogate a verdict issued by the Supreme Court of India in 2014 and the Transgender Person Bill of Rights (2018) to ascertain the frames of recognition accorded diverse transgender communities in India. This is followed by an analysis of the category of eunuch created and criminalized by British colonizers and the present‐day category of transgender based on self‐affirmation of gender. The conflating of religious mythologies into deliberations about transgender constitutional rights reveals how the supposedly secular rights – based claims of and for transgender communities are mediated through a predominantly Hindu Brahmanical imagination of the rights‐bearing transgender subject. The authors examine autobiographical narratives by three prominent transgender rights activists in India: Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Living Smile Vidya, and A. Revathi, who provide conflicting visions about the role of religion and state recognition of transgender identities. The authors argue the need for theorizing transgender subjectivities from non‐Brahman, Dalit, transmasculine, and non – North Indian perspectives. Such theorizations reveal the potential of coalitional transgender activisms that seek to disrupt Hindu‐nationalist hailing of the transgender subject of rights in contemporary India. The authors offer new directions in transgender studies by showing how religious narratives, ritual and performance lie at the heart of transgender subject formation while gesturing toward how such formation risks subsuming transgender identities within (Hindu) nationalist projects.
Transgender Rights and Religiosities in India: NALSA Judgment and Beyond
Ila Nagar is associate professor of South Asian languages and cultures at The Ohio State University. Nagar's research and teaching focus on South Asian cultures and topics in sociolinguistics situated at the nexus of language, politics, sexuality, power, and meaning.
Debanuj DasGupta is assistant professor of feminist studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. Debanuj's research and teaching focus on racialized regulation of space, immigration detention, queer migrations, and the global governance of migration, sexuality, and HIV.
Ila Nagar, Debanuj DasGupta; Transgender Rights and Religiosities in India: NALSA Judgment and Beyond. GLQ 1 June 2023; 29 (3): 329–352. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-10437222
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