A majority of Bangladeshis are ignorant about a lot of things regarding sexuality and gender. Explorations into these topics are subject to severe cultural and social taboo.
Instead, the norm in this country is to bundle up a child as soon as it is born in either a pink or a blue towel, and by doing so, stamp a set of expectations and values on its future self.
To begin understanding the problem in this culture, we need to have a clear understanding of SEX and GENDER identities, and the differences between these two terms.
The biological attributes which make an individual either a man, a woman, or an intersex person determine a person’s sex. In other words, sex is determined through biology.
Gender, on the other hand, is more related to the individual’s psychology and their role in society.
Gender identity is termed by HRC (Human Rights Council) as “One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither — how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.”
The gender you consider yourself to be is your gender identity, while the sex you are is decided by your body and physiology.
There are mainly three sexes that are commonly acknowledged. They are: Male, female, and intersex.
Humans have XY sex-determination processes. The presence of a Y chromosome in the embryo results in male development, while the absence of it causes female development. Having a different combination of sex chromosomes other than XX or XY can lead to intersexuality.
In our country, intersex people are a part of the Hijra community.
On the other hand, there are various possible gender identities. For example: Cisgender, transgender, genderfluid, bigender, agender, genderqueer, demigender, etc.
So, what is the difference between transgender and hijra?
When you think of the term hijra, you assume that this is a person who, because of their biology is neither male nor female, or both male and female.
It is often assumed that they fall into the intersex category. This means that they are people who are born with sex characteristics including genitals, gonads, and chromosome patterns that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.
In reality, hijra is actually an umbrella term that is used to describe a group of people that may include intersex people, castrated men, and also transgender women. This group of people live as a community or “family”, under a community leader or “guru”.
So hijra, is in fact a community, and not a sex or a gender.
Transgender, on the other hand, is a term used to define people who were assigned male at birth, but at a later stage in life realised that they identified as a female, and vice versa.
The correct translation of “transgender” in Bangla would rather be রূপান্তরিত নারী or, in contrary cases, রূপান্তরিত পুরুষ.
This article was created in collaboration with TransEnd and ProjectDebi.