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An Interview With Hijra


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India’s proud community of boys who would rather be girls has officially breached the half-million mark, and we wish we could hug every one of these crazy, lovable, mixed-up bastards. They’re a ubiquitous breed known as hijras, or “impotent ones,” with a thousand-plus-year tradition of bringing good luck. However, in these cynical times in which we live, the concept of luck is about as easy to believe in as the concept of leprechauns, and so the hijras have just become endearingly empowered street hustlers.

Vice recently caught up with Rubina, a 35-year-old from Mysore (ha ha ha, a town called “my sore”—only in India, folks!), who kindly invited us back to her place to discuss her transformation. It cost 1,000 rupees (about $20) for her time, and it was money gladly paid.

Vice: Rubina is a lovely name.

Rubina: Before I was Rubina, I was a boy called Sadiq. But I wanted to be a woman for as long as I can remember. From birth, I had flowery actions like a girl. I loved to dance, sing, grow my hair, and wear a bra and ladies’ underwear.

And when did you actually claim your place among the impotent ones?

I ran away to Mumbai to join the hijra family at 18. A guru performed a special ceremony for me—like a marriage, with new saris, bangles, and decorations. It was a happy day. At home, I felt like I was in a cage, but when I joined my new family I felt like I was in the open air for the first time.

And this guru also surgically removed your penis. Is that legal for him to do?

No, but our guru performs the operation secretly. Removing the male parts was very painful. We see it like the delivery of a baby, because we are reborn as women. Some people die from it, but we have to bear it. I was very scared, but when it was over I felt so happy. I love my new body, even though I am quite fat. How do you think I look?

Gorgeous! How did your parents react?

They were very angry. I told them I would move away permanently if they didn’t accept me. Because I am an only child and I make very good money from being a hijra, my parents now accept me.

What differentiates a hijra from a run-of-the mill tranny?

We are more like God’s gift. The problem is we are born the wrong gender. Hijras have thousands of years’ history in India. And we have responsibilities. People pay us a lot of rupees to perform weddings and births because they think we are good luck. But most days, we make money by approaching shopkeepers or the general public and saying things like, “Hello, darling, sweetie, namaste my dear, give me some money.” Then we touch them and say rude things until they are a little embarrassed and give us cash. In return, we take away the evil eye. If they don’t give us trouble, we don’t give them any.

Define “trouble.”

If they refuse to pay us any money, we will pull our saris up and show ourselves to them. They usually give us money so we stop making a scene. Then again, some men believe it is good luck to see our nakedness, so they ask us politely and give us money and we do it. Sometimes they kiss us and touch our breasts too, but in an affectionate way.

Are some people afraid of hijras?

Yes, some fearful people shout vulgar things like “Homosexual eunuch, you have no penis!” I usually say something bad back to them, like “Go to hell! You are going to die in a road accident.” And what I say will probably come true. Just last month, a woman came to my house and said, “My husband is so rich that we could buy ten bitches like you.” I got angry and said, “Soon your husband will die.” The next week he did. This is the power of the hijra.

Edited by kdsingh80
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