Why are you NOT married?

I have arrived in Mysore and it has been an interesting few weeks getting used to the weather and culture. Even though I feel like I am at home, there are still some adjustments that I need to make to be a Mysorean. To begin my research and be able to travel it was imperative for me to register with the FRO (Foreigners Registration in India) for my residency. The registration process was exhausting, but now I am part of India legally even though is for 9 months. It is prideful to show a paper to the Mysore community and say that I live in the country legitimately. It sounds crazy, but when you come from the other side of the world it is remarkable to feel part of a different culture.  Besides completing government official forms, I also have been interacting with the organization that supports my research. The staff has been knowing me for the past year and they make me feel like I am part of their life’s. It is fascinating the many questions they have about my place of birth and why I research minority populations in their city. Another question they peculiarly have is Why am I not married? To be honest, most of the time my answers is because I am concentrated in my studies, but in reality, I just did not want to go over the whole explanation of me been Gay.

Marriage in India is all about the union of two families and how a man and a woman are part of a community. According to “Hindu” (Sanatan Dharma), the ceremony of marriage is a firm uniting of two souls such that after marriage the individual bodies remain as separate entities but the souls merge into one harmonious whole (Mehta, 2016). Even though there are two humans giving up their regular life’s, it is also their responsibility to care and love for their families. Thus most marriages are arranged by parents or relatives, even in the educated class. Children are expected to accept their parents’ decision with respect to marriage unconditionally, extra-marital relationships, separations, and remarriage have been looked down upon. For most people in India, marriage is a one-time event in life, which sanctified and glorified with much social approval (Sharma, I., Pandit, B., Pathak, A., & Sharma, R. 2013).

For 158 years section, 377 of the Indian Penal Code defines homosexuality as a crime, punishable by imprisonment (Agoramoorthy, G., & Minna, J. H., 2007) till a few weeks ago. Homosexuality is an interesting topic here in Mysore when discussing my project. The staff where I work seems open to many topics, but at the same time, homosexuality topics can be controversial. When I had my first meeting with the transgender Guru/president of their community I wanted to make sure that she knew that this project for me was very close to my heart and kind of personal. After thinking throughout the night and the morning of the meeting what to say for the transgender community to know how important this research for me was; I decided to have someone translate for me and tell the Guru that this was an exceptional project for me because I was Gay. I am still not sure if those that translated for me knew exactly what I meant, but I am pretty sure the Guru got my message by just the look in her eyes. I do remember her saying that she knew I was similar to her community and that she knew I was doing my research from my heart.

It was very interesting to know that the Guru knew that someone in the LGBTQIA community was supporting their community and possibly creating new resources like education for HIV. However, after informing the transgender Guru that I was gay things became weird and very quiet on my way back to the office. I believe that at that moment everyone was processing everything that I had said, and it was scandalous to know that I am Gay. The trip back to the office was silent and no one was talking, and believe me, Indian people know how to keep up with many conversations. For the rest of the day no one mentioned anything, and I felt a little uncomfortable; but one thing I have learned in India is not to take anything personal since cultures are very different all over the world. The next day after my meeting with the Hijada Guru the environment at the office felt more relax and not stressful. The people started conversations like nothing was said or even talked about. To be honest, this made me feel rights at home. Because even though we did not discuss anything related to my sexual orientation, their morning handshake felt like a huge hug letting me know that they will support me anytime.

Most of my readers will not understand my concerns about Mysore community acceptance process. Most of you will be telling me to not care about other opinions, but for me, it is all about educating and promoting kindness. It is not just about fighting for equal rights, it is creating a space with love and understanding. I am a foreigner and the person introducing myself to a new culture, new religions and people with different ideologies. I am the one that needs to understand that people have different opinions, but at the same time try to communicate in a way people can be educated to open new doors for those rejected in society. And like in the movie “The Greatest Showman”, I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me.

“This site/blog http://www.hectorpeguero.com is not an official site of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.”

 

Agoramoorthy, G., & Minna, J. H. (2007). India’s homosexual discrimination and health consequences. Revista de saúde pública41(4), 657-660.

Sharma, I., Pandit, B., Pathak, A., & Sharma, R. (2013). Hinduism, marriage and mental illness. Indian journal of psychiatry55(Suppl 2), S243.

Hijras or Transgender???

2018-09-15 13.01.14

Plan in action for my research

Last week before coming to Mysore (my home, away from home), Fulbright Fellows got together for a beautiful dinner to close orientation week. At dinner, I had a really great conversation with a fellow Fulbright scholar that got me even more interested in transgender studies in India. After a long day at a seminar and listening to a panel of people talking about gender roles, security and life in India;. My new friend asked me what type of research I was doing, and as soon as she learnt about my Hijdras research, she started to talk about her experiences with the Hijras community in New Delhi. As some of you who have already read my previous posts on my website, Hijras are a group of transgender women officially considered a third gender in India. Hijras, an institutionalized third gender (Kalra, 2012), as in many parts of the world face several difficulties in the state of Karnataka such as problems related to violence, rejection, low-income status and even partner violence.

While dining at a quiet restaurant in Delhi, we discussed issues about the transgender community in New Delhi, and how they were socially categories. When starting my project almost two years ago, Hijras were defined in my projects as a transgender community, but apparently, this classification is not the same in other parts of India. In her opinion and after a few conversations with transgender friends my dear colleague explained to me that in New Delhi, a transgender woman who self-identifies as Hijra may use prostitution as her main source of income. On the other hand, if the women self-identifies as a transgender woman and are accepted by their family, then she is considered to come from high social status. By having conversations with transgender friends my colleague understood that middle-class families that accept their children as transgender want to make sure they don’t act or look like a Hijra just because of the stigma associated with the community. I Know, it is a little confusing, and that is exactly what I told my fellow Fulbrighter. It means that if the transgender comes from a lower socioeconomic class in the society, they are called a Hijra, and if they have a good source of income they are called ‘transgender ‘women in New Delhi. Interesting right! We all think that we have enough divisions and classifications in the world, but I guess we humans have the need of creating more groups to have a social identity.

2018-09-15 13.01.18Because of how fascinating the Hijra topic was that night, I spent some more time conducting more research to better understand the transgender social status in Delhi, India. After researching for two days, I noticed that they are probably no studies related to social status for the transgender community in India. We do know that they are all types of SES in the world but knowing exactly how the transgender community itself is divided because of how wealthy they are is not documented in research. I do have to say that is a little uncomfortable to talk about as it further leads to division within a community that has gone through a lot of rejection. I cannot understand why a community will like to make more social divisions when it is a struggle to survive in a country that considered gay sex illegal till a few weeks ago.

It has been a great few days in New Delhi. I have met lots of interesting and smart people from the United States who are coming to India to do their work. Students coming from some of the best universities, and people here that have committed their lives to create a space to help us to reach our goals in life. Now I am so ready to go to my second home (Mysore) and see my second family and start my new journey in my beautiful India.

Kalra, G. (2012), Hijras: the unique transgender culture of India. International Journal of Culture and Mental Health, 5, 121-126 

“This site/blog http://www.hectorpeguero.com is not an official site of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.”

Making it Interesting

Finally FREE!! BUT LOTS OF WORK TO CONTINUE.

LGBT

https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/decriminalising-section-377-the-long-and-chequered-past-of-unnatural-sex-in-india-1807721.html

 

Understanding Social Networks Influence in Mumbai,India. The video helped my study to compared Mumbai minority population social cycle to Mysore resources.

Self-Stigma, Education, and HIV Knowledge in Mysore, India

Geraldine Cadet, Gabriella Cruz, Hector Peguero, and Alina Mitchell