1. VOICEOVER 00:00:01,120 – 00:00:52,40



VALENTIJN: My name is Valentijn.


I'm a model, I'm a DJ, and I'm transgender.


For a long time, I felt like I was between male and female.


But I grew up in a society not used to people like me.


India has had a third gender for much longer.


Hijras have long been embedded in religious and cultural traditions.


It's hard to know how many hijras there are in India.


Rough estimates reach up to one million. What we do know is, their community has existed since at least the roots of Hinduism.


With Stig and Lorenz, I'm going to India to explore how hijra traditions survive in modern-day society.


I'm also interested to discover their stories and how their lives differ from mine as a white transgender.

2. ON-CAM SPEECH 00:00:53,520 --> 00:01:16,200


VALENTIJN: We've arrived in New Delhi to meet Laxmi Narayan Tripathy.


She's one of the most popular and influential hijras in India.


She's quite famous.


I'm nervous to find out if she'll accept me, or will it be, "Who's this girl?


What's she doing here? Why is she bothering me?"


Let's see. I hope it'll be fine.



3. DIALOGUE LAXMI 00:01:18 – 00:02:46


VALENTIJN: Hello, hi Laxmi.

LAXMI: Hello. Hi. Oh my God.


V: How are you?


L: How are you darling?


V: I’m good.


L: I’m the high priestess of the first ever transgender congregation of a religious space, a convent, of the Vedic Sanathan religion, that you call very famously as the Hinduism. And we decided in 2015 to reclaim the lost position in the religion, because religion plays a very important role in every society. And in the religion we are considered as demigods.


V: I’ve read a lot about it being called hijra culture. But I know that that’s…


L: It is hijra culture. It is hijr- and than –ra. It means the person who… he or she lives his own time in search of his true self, is known as a hijra, but in India we were known as the kinnars.
We say that we are the oldest ethnic transgender community in the world.


V: Exactly.

It is so interesting to see how embedded it is in culture. You know, that it’s not something…

V: Strange.


V: It is framed as something new, but it’s…

L: No it’s very (sic) century-old (sic).

People should have dignified life according to the norms of the society what they consider, but not at the cost of their culture and traditions. If you loose your culture and traditions you loose your soul.


V: Yeah, it’s…


L: Hallelujah, welcome to our den baby.



4. VOICEOVER 00:03:00,240 – 00:03:04,120



VALENTIJN: In precolonial times, hijras held high social status.


But following the British regime,their privileges have slowly been eroded.


They have increasingly become victims of oppression.


In Mumbai, I'm visiting Mujra Naani.


Mujra Naani is a nayak,the figurehead of a gharana, a group of hijras living together as a family.



5. DIALOGUE  00:03:25 – 00:06:12



VALENTIJN: So the gharana is like a family. So how is the gharana family structured?


MUJRA NAANI (00:03:30): A gharana is like a household. Like this is my household, and these are my chelas: one, two, three,...


M (00:03:39) I am their guru. But she is also her guru and she her disciple. I also have a guru.


M (00:03:46) And my guru also had a guru.


V (00:03:48) So you are her guru, and then you also have chelas right?

HIJRA: Yes. And these are my grand-chelas.

V: Like a real family.


V: Can I ask: how do chelas come to their guru?


M (00:04:00):  How a disciple finds a guru, I would say, in Bombay there are seven gharanas, they can live with any guru.


M: (00:04:07): There are no restrictions.


M: (00:04:09): But when they leave their village and their families because of ...


M: (00:04:13):  what do you call that...


M: (00:04:15): It is because of the stigma and the harassment that they face, that they leave their house.


V: How do gharanas make their money? How do they make their income?


M: (00:04:26): So how do we make our money. Our grand-chelas take forward our traditional culture of blessing.


Apart from that, we do ‘mangti’ or begging. We go to various shops to ask for money. And with that money we sustain our clan.


V: I was wondering if you could tell me how hijras get their powers to bless and to curse?


M (00:04:48): In the holy scriptures it is mentioned that kinnars are worshipped as demigods, and that their blessings are considered as favourable.


And even now in modern times, this tradition is kept and there are many who believe in us.


What you have heard about us is 101% correct. The blessings of the hirjas and even the curse of hijras both work.

V: Do you think that people are afraid to harass hijras because they are scared that you will curse them?


M: (00:05:18) It’s not like that. Those who fear will anyawyas get scared.


This fear has been propagated by our families.


When in our family a child is born as a hijra, if the mother and father, his own family stigmatizes and tortures the kid, we would not have to face such harassment by the society.


When I go out on the streets, then locals call out names like hijra, chakka, gur, bailiya, whatever names they can call us.


Incase I am in a good mood, many times I will accept their cheap comments, but if I am not feeling good, if i am feeling depressed and some cheapster starts calling out names, I also retaliate with verbal abuses.


M (00:06:04): Motherfucker. Motherfucker. Fatherfucker.

Many of them get scared by our reciprocration.


It’s not our fault.


You can’t say that it’s our fault.



6. VOICEOVER 00:06:36 – 00:06:47,080



VALENTIJN: Hijras are often seen doing mangti at busy intersections.


The chelas knock on car windows to ask for money in exchange for their blessing.



7. DIALOGUE 00:06:49-00:06:58



VALENTIJN: Why do people give hijras money?


PAVITRA: (00:06:49) They fear us. They fear that if they do not give us money we might curse them or wish them bad luck.


See we ask money becasue we have to. Because we have to feed ourselves. But even if people do not want to give us money, they still give out of helplessness because they have fear that if they do not give money to a hijra, she might curse them so that in a next life, they will become a hijra too.


Or she might curse them so that they would bear losses in their family, or in their business.


V: Have you ever experienced bad things during mangti?


P: (00:07:20) Yes, many times during mangti I’ve been beaten. Some people tore my clothes as well.


No one looks at the good things about us. People look at us from a very bad point-of-view. Some people slap us as well or will shoo us away.


The police never help us. They discriminate us or they want to have sex with us.


In situations like these, there are normally many policemen together. Not one policeman. So they beat us and forcefully have sex with us.


Yes, they do such things. Such things happen often.



8. VOICEOVER 00:08:17,400 – 00:08:36,960



VALENTIJN: I travelled back to New Delhi to meet with the Pahal Foundation, an organisation looking out for transgender people, in particular, transgender sex workers.


Many of the staff are sex workers, so they're well aware of the dangers that transgenders face on the streets.



9. DIALOGUE 00:08:37 -00:09:49



VALENTIJN: Since I’ve been in India, I’ve heard a lot of different words: I have heard transgender, hijra, kinnar... How do you identify?


MANPREET: (00:08:48) I only identify as transgender.

VALENTIJN: Transgender.


MANPREET: (00:08:51) Hijra is a culture. It is a tradition and a community that has been going on for a very long time in India.


Transgender is what we identify ourselves as.


OTHER TG: (00:09:03) Transgender is just an identity for us. It does not involve rules and pressure from the community. Now we are free to do anything.


But if we follow the Hijra lifestyle, we are overburdened with rules about where we can go, whom we can meet, regulations on eating etc.


If we have to go somewhere, we have to go with the guru only. We cannot go alone anywhere.


VALENTIJN: Right, so when it comes to hijra culture, is there a lot of oppression and abuse from the gurus to their chelas going on?


ALISHA: (00:09:30) Only those who make mistakes get punished.


For instance, if the disciple does not follow the command of the guru, the guru has the right to punish her.


The guru will make a video of the punishment given to the disciple and circulate the video in the entire hijra community.


Furthermore the disciple cannot go anywhere and loses all support from within the community.


She remains a total outcast.


If anyone within the community tries to get in touch with her, they themselves will be fined for that.



10. VOICEOVER  00:09:49,360 – 00:10:16,160



Alisha shows a clip of a naked chela who's been chained up by her guru for begging in an unauthorised area.


A scolding hot coin is placed on her forehead: a traditional punishment.


She begs for mercy, but her guru keeps hitting her.


I had a romanticised idea of the gharana.


I thought it was a place where hijras could find a new home.


But this clip turns everything upside down.


11. DIALOGUE 00:10:15-00:12:13



V (00:10:15) That’s really shocking

And this happens a lot? Stuff like this?


M -Yes.


V (00:10:23) What other violence does the transgender community face here, when they are on the streets in Delhi?


M (00:10:30) Sex workers often get harassed by police officers. They pick them up and force them to have sex with them.


Street gangs harass us as well. They sometimes snatch our money and try to have free sex with us.


They also try to have sex without protection, without a condom.

So the risk of getting infected with sewually transmitted diseases goes up very high.


So they create a lot of problems for us.


Some of them are snatchers. They keep blades on them and they cut sex workers on the face and different parts of the body.


They force themselves upon them and try to rape them.


SHAIRA (00:11:07) I want to tell you something.


M - Listen carefully.


S (00:11:11) On the new year’s eve, I was hanging out with a few friends.


Out of nowhere came 2 or 3 thugs on a bike.


The guys just picked me up from the street and they forcefully made me sit between them on the bike.


They were Gujjar boys from the business community.


They took out petrol from their bike and forced me to give them a blow-job.


They treatened to throw petrol on me and to set me ablaze if I would not.


So I had to give them both a blow-job. I had to have sex with them.


After that they slapped me on the face, and they ordered me to run away from that place.


V: What did you do, did you go to the police?


S: No.


ALISHA (00:11:49) We can’t even go to the police. They might object why we are hustling (tippelen) on the streets.

The police might want to have sex with us. Or they poke fun at us with vulgar talks.


They would themselves force us to have sex with us. They would give us even more problems.


They will try to involve our families. And we would not like our family to know about such matters.


V: Do you have a lot of fear to go out?


A: Of course we are scared.


M: Of course.


A: I feel scared and ask myself if I will be able to see the next day sun.



12. VOICEOVER (00:12:13,200 – 00:12:43,920)



VALENTIJN: The stories these girls tell me leave a deep impression.


I can't imagine their lives never feeling safe.


Even if you're on the street with a guru, or even the police, discrimination and violence are always present.


One big problem for transgender Indians is a lack of job security.


Most of them end up in sex work.


One person trying to change this is Rudrani.


She started the first hijra modelling agency.



13. DIALOGUE (00:12:44 – 00:15:27)



VALENTIJN: Why did you want to start a modelling agency specifically for trans women?


RUDRANI: Fashion is all about experiment, fashion is all about – you know – inclusiveness. And the image which people have been seeing of transgenders, how they stereotype transgenders, that they are agressive, that they are only good for sex work and begging. And we really need to break that stereotype. Because people who are doing sex work and who are begging, it is not their choice. They really want to become models or they want to become air hostess, they want to become –you know- entertainer. For me everybody is beautiful in their own capacity. Just because they don’t have the resources – you have resources, you have a lot of things to make yourself beautiful. So it is all about survival, if given the opporutnity they are also beautiful and they will do it wonderfully. But we will make our way and we will come in front. So I think modelling is the best way because it is a beautiful outreach.


V: I read that some time ago you were the victim of a very violent attack and you shared that story very openly on Facebook. Could you tell me a little bit of what happened?


R: I was out for a dinner with my ex-boyfriend. And all of a sudden three bikes come, with almost 9 to 10 people, I can’t even make out because it was night. My boyfriend was riding a scooter, and I was sitting behind. And they literally were almost close, you know they surrounded us, and they tried to pull me away from my boyfriend. I resisted, I shouted. They picked a big stone and they started hitting us. And one of the stones hit me here.


V: Why did you want to speak out? Why did you want to show people on Facebook? Because the pictures are horrible.


R: Because I was sad. Just a few months ago, one of my friends was shot dead.


V: I’m so sorry.


R: She was a sex worker and I mean... she disappeared. Next afternoon there was a call, and when we all went there, she was shot dead in the night and by afternoon 12 rats had eaten all of her ears, eyes, toes. And it was a horrible... I mean, how can somebody do this to a human. So I wanted to speak, I do not want to die like this, I do not want – you know - to be found – you know - in a gutter. Missing, gone, doesn’t matter. Because I believe trans lives matter, it matters.


V: They do.



14. VOICEOVER (00:15:27,680 – 00:16:03,040)



VALENTIJN: "Trans lives matter," says Rudrani.


The global outcry for respect and dignity has reached India.


I'm now meeting with Alisha to attend the New Delhi Queer Pride parade.


This year marks a special occasion.


Just a few months before,the Indian government abolished Article 377, which criminalised sex between men and transgenders.


The abolition of this article is a step forward for the LGBT community.


But there's still a long road ahead.



15. ON-CAM



CROWD: One, two, three, four. Open up the closet doors.
Five, six, seven, eight. Don’t assume your kids are straight.



16. VOICEOVER (00:17:25,440 – 00:17:41,320)



VALENTIJN: As night falls, we leave the parade behind.


Alisha brings us to where they do sex work.


By a busy road, she leads us to the bushes.


Some of Alisha's friends are already waiting behind a barbwire fence.



17. DIALOGUE (00:17:45 - 00:20:15,080)




Hello. Valentijn.

Can I ask you, do you girls ususally come here to work at night?


SEX WORKER: Yes, at the road.


V: Aren’t you ever scared to come here?


SW: Yes. Mostly we are scared when we are here late at night. The police...

ALISHA: The police creates problems, and often thugs come in a group of three or four.

They want to have free sex and put a pistol to our face.

But the police just asks us: why do you even stand here?

So they don’t act, they just say: don’t stand here.

No, the police does not help.


A (00:18:20): Come on. Look, condoms.


V : So you come here to distribute the condoms as well?


A: Here, condom.


V: So this is the condom that you distribute.


A: Yes. The ngo gives them to us. And you can find the wrappings on the ground. Here.


V: So when you meet a client, what happens? You come here?


A: Yes, this is where we bring our client, and do sex with.


V: And what happens then?


A: First we do blowjob, and after that we perform sodomy.


A: (00:19:04) When I feel it’s not safe I try to run or to hide. There are places in this jungle that I know where I can hide.


A (00:19:10) Sometimes they put a pistol to my head, and threaten me that they will shoot when I don’t consent.


V: Do you think this is a safe place?  Do you think it’s a safe working place?


A: Yes, yes. Quite safe.


V: Because you can hide and stuff?

A: Before 11pm it is quite safe, but

it’s not after 11.


A: (00:19:26:15) And compared to the street it is better because we can hide. Otherwise when we run, we may get hit by a moving car.


A: (00:19:39) Look, there is the bus.


V: How do you get the clients to come to you?


A: Mostly the clients get out at the bus station and walk right past us.


A They ask how much, and when they agree we go into the woods.


A Sometimes they come by car, and they ask us to have sex in the car.


A And sometimes they want us to go home with them.


V: But you never go in the car, right?


A: Only when I feel that it’s safe.

18. DIALOGUE 00:20:17,160 - 00:20:29,680




ALISHA: What do you want today?


CLIENT: - A blowjob.


C: I can only do 100-150 rupees.


A: - Make it 200.


C: Without condom.


A: - No.


C: I want no condom.


A: - That'll be 200.



ON-CAM SPEECH 00:20:33,200 – 00:21:27,160



VALENTIJN: It's fucking weird.


I can't imagine it being OK to do sex work in a place like this.


No, I really can't.


The whole area looks incredibly unsafe.


When you hear about what they deal with, guys taking out pistols, forcing you to do whatever they want for free...


No, it's not safe here.


I really don't want to be here.


I just want to get out of here and...


I can't do anything about this.

I'm just standing here, and...


I've had enough now. Sorry...



19. VOICEOVER (00:21:45,480 – 00:22:12,560)



VALENTIJN: From Delhi, we take the train to Allahabad, a sacred place for many Hindus.


Every 12 years, the Kumbh Mela takes place, the world's largest religious festival.


During the Kumbh, millions of pilgrims head to Allahabad to bathe in the holy river Ganges.


During this time, Laxmi will be in Allahabad with her hijra order.


We meet her during her preparations.



20. DIALOGUE (00:22:11 – 23:37)


VALENTIJN: When did you first realise that you were trans? When did that realisation come?


LAXMI: I never realised i was trans, the world made me realise I was trans. Did you realise you were trans. No! We were as normal child as we were, we were going to school, only our femininity… we didn’t fit in those boxes of male and female and then we became an outbox for everybody in the society. Then it starts: oh homo, gay, you know, for us chakka, hijra, mamu, gur, all those names which are used to completely take away my dignity and to take away my whole human existence.


We are considered as a sexual object in the patriarchal world. What they cannot do with their wives, they want to experience it with the trans women.


Society is considered very inclusive about all the genders, but it is not true underground. Still we have stigma, still we have discrimination. Still transgenders are killed, one bullet is enough to kill them.

And we wanted to create that change for every individual part of the Vedic Sanatan Dharma,

Though I am the high priestess but the high priestess’ job is to safeguard everybody.
So I always say one thing is that I am the medium, and god has provided me with the right place at the right time.



21. VOICEOVER (00:23:41,40 – 00:24:00,36)



VALENTIJN:  Laxmi clearly wants to restore hijras to their traditional social status.


On the dried-up banks of the Ganges,


Laxmi blesses the earth for the holy Kumbh.


High-ranking Indian hijras are attending the ritual.


Laxmi invited me to take part in the ritual.



22. DIALOGUE (00:24:56 – 00:25:22)



LAXMI:  It is a sure responsibility that my coming generation also be treated with respect and with dignity.


Everything is about dignity.


We are a cultured civilization, whether west or east or north or south.


What was the whole fight about?

It was all about inclusiveness in the society.


Or if you have the guts, you create your own society than.




23. VOICEOVER (00:25:28,320 – 00:26:03,640)



VALENTIJN: The position of transgenders in India is marked by stark contrasts.


What sticks with me are the remarkable people I've met, and the courage they show in their struggle for acceptance.


I feel a certain distance, since our lives are so different.


In the Netherlands, I'm privileged.


But here, there's a long way to go.


But now I am even more convinced that transgenderism belongs to all times and cultures.


Trans is more than a fashion.


We've always been here, and we're here to stay.


And I take pride in this.


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