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Title: Exploring the social and political lives of gender nonconforming people in India
Authors: Mukherjee, Ankita
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, various NGOs (non-government organisations) and CBOs (community-based organisations) were founded in India with the aim of spreading HIV awareness among sexual minorities and a range of gender nonconforming people, broadly grouped at the time as the hijras. Through such organisations, the hijras came in contact with Western norms, practices and categories of identification. These organisations also served as important pathways for the rise of LGBT activism in India, which has led to the passage of legal reforms such as the National Legal Services Authority judgement (2014) and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill (the 2014 and 2016 drafts). Drawing on interview data collected from thirty-seven participants identifying as transgenders (TGs), hijras and men who have sex with men (MSM) (including two queer persons), this thesis explores the social and political lives of gender nonconforming people in India. The research primarily focusses on gender nonconforming people who are assigned male at birth (MAB) and does not include people who self-define as intersex, and while the study includes two participants assigned female at birth (FAB) who self-define as queer, they are not a focus of the study. The interviews were conducted between September 2017 and March 2018 at a CBO and four NGOs in Delhi and the surrounding NCR (National Capital Region). The research project examines socio-political influences on gender nonconforming people’s sense of self, their ideas about community and their personal and group aspirations. The data collected from the interviews point to the following findings: Firstly, some gender nonconforming people strategise their identities by selectively using Western categories of identification. The use of multiple categories for the purpose of identification enables them to navigate situations of stigma, garner visibility at an international level and obtain funding from global bodies. Secondly, instead of attaching themselves to a single community, participants see themselves as part of multiple real and imagined communities, which appear to be fractured primarily along the lines of class and occupation. Thirdly, the impacts of legal reforms passed between 2014 and 2016 seem to have fallen short of some gender nonconforming people’s expectations with regards to their access to education, employment, housing, pension and healthcare. This research contributes new ways of theorising gender nonconforming people’s understandings of the self and their approaches to activism in India.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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