M, F, E OR MORE?
There are always those who are thrown completely off-balance when faced with a form to fill. It seems that one innocent soul once wrote “Quite often, thank you” in the column marked “Sex”. Now that the choice for that space has expanded to three options instead of the traditional two on passport application forms, the innocent may be even more confused. But the expansion is extraordinarily good news for a huge community of human beings in India who find themselves at a loss when forced to identify themselves as either male or female. The new option, “E” for “eunuch”, introduced into the website version of the passport form, is the first official recognition of a different gender-option in this country. The existence of the hijra or eunuch community has never been a secret. The fact that it is made up largely of individuals whose sexual or gender identity does not fit into the two-gender division of society is precisely the reason they are perceived as outcasts, although accepted at certain rituals. To recognize them officially for the first time in 2005 is also to demonstrate their severe lack of rights. Even the exact size of the community is unknown; one estimate puts transgendered people in India at 25 to 30 million.