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Traversing Fluidity

Book January 2019 Lifestyle

Traversing Fluidity


Nandini Krishnan elucidates about the concept of gender in Invisible Men: Inside India’s Transmasculine Network

By Rosy Jose

Gender is not a spectrum; gender is a definite state of being. The body is the spectrum. Some men and women are trapped in the wrong bodies, and they then proceed to transit. Transition is not a spectrum; the transition is a movement towards certainty,” writes Manu Joseph. This is powerful and thought to provoke excerpt from a foreword to Nandini Krishnan’s second book, Invisible Men: Inside India’s Transmasculine Network. These words truly do justice to the pages that follow.

Book Jan 19

The landmark ruling of the Supreme Court, in favor of the LGBTI community, has once again put the limelight on them. The sole reason for this win is the formation of strong networking capabilities within the community and its supporters. Unfortunately, the gender-normative society that exists around them is ignorant of their struggles. This apathy can be found rooted in the poor portrayal of this community in the movies, merely to provide some comic relief or to be mocked and belittled. Over the past decade, the LGBTI community has gained some respect, especially in the larger cities, but that number is meager when looking at the condition of an estimated 4.8 million transgender people in India.

Nandini Krishnan has, through her remarkable book, provided us with a basic sensitivity training guide through the life experiences of some members of this oppressed group. More importantly, through the frank and poignant tales, she forces us to question the true meaning of manhood. The stories move through villages and cities alike, different age groups, religious beliefs, convictions, and socio-economic class—telling us that trans people exist everywhere, just that we are oblivious to their existence. She starts by throwing light at the concept of having genders within the transgender group, transmen and transwomen, the differences between them, and how our lack of understanding has grouped them together.

The book gives us heart-rendering narratives of instances of cruelty meted out to trans people because of the jaundiced view of normality and our innate nature of being afraid of the unknown. Some are betrayed by their own families, forced into electroconvulsive therapy, cheated into taking hormones and even ‘cured’ by marital rape. The most emotional cases in point are the internal struggles— dilemmas and dysphoria to first accept their own feelings and then explain to others around them. Some suffer from mental illnesses like depression. Krishnan also delves into the latest medical techniques used as a way to liberate themselves from the female shape, the complexities of hormonal transitions and sex reassignment surgery.

She urges us to ponder whether a socioeconomic privilege makes acceptance into mainstream society easier. Each story presents only one moral. Transpeople are also children of God. They too have the capability of feeling ecstasy and agony, the same human emotions as us. Their life deserves the same consideration and needs to be provided with the same avenues for employment. Through this book, Krishnan makes a powerful case for inclusivity and a non-binary approach to gender.

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