India before the binary

How Britain’s colonial past can be traced through to the transphobic feminism of today:

The British Age of Enlightenment prized itself on scientific rationality, including with it strict taxonomies of racial and sex categorisation – i.e. your biology meant you were strictly male or female, and there was a rigid hierarchy of race superiority (with whites at the top). And so, Britain’s cannibalisation of the rest of the globe simultaneously erased rich non-Western trans histories.

Take, for instance, the transgender Hijra people of India, who, prior to British imperial rule, were exalted in their communities, tasked with important legal duties like collecting taxes and duties; in 1864, Britain imported its 1533 Buggery Act, which directly criminalised Hijra people and reduced them to second-class citizens. It was only in 2019 that this colonial law was rescinded. This obliteration of well-established transgender communities was replicated across the Global North; European colonists, when invading the Americas, pointed to the transgender Two-Spirit traditions of its indigenous people as proof of their primitivism.

It seems clear that the British introduced a rationalization. But this strikes me like saying the “British invented caste.”

This isn’t about Indians at all. Indians are seen as instruments in culture-wars.

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66 Replies to “India before the binary”

  1. I’ve heard some say that South Asians and many others didn’t even have a conception of genders until the White man, with his omnipotent agency, came and taught and divided the then fluid, syncretic, liberal society into two genders.

    They invented a religion and socioeconomic system for us, might as well gender too.

    1. Careful! Someone might end up using Arjuna (of Mahabharata fame) as an example of gender-fluidity.

  2. I wont comment on (what sounds like mostly BS) historical analysis, but here is what he says about biological sex:
    “As Rowling argues, there is such a thing as biological sex (you have male or female sexual organs, or in the case of intersex people, a combination). But this, too, is infinitely more fluid than biological essentialists pretend to make out. Transphobes often point out that you’re born with either XX (female) or XY (male) chromosomes, which are encoded into every cell in the human body; yet, there are many “biological females” who have XY chromosomes, and vice versa – some are, in fact, born with three sex chromosomes, like XXY, XXX and XXY (and would never know).

    What about hormones? Again, the science debunks the kind of empirical certainty many transphobes invoke – many “biological males” produce more oestrogen than “biological females,” and vice versa.”

    This is just errant nonsense. Humans are a sexually dimorphic species, which means that “normally” we are either biologically male or female. Like anything in biology, this does not mean that there are no outliers. MOST people (more than 99%) are born clearly male or female, but some have genetic or structural errors that lead to a baby being “intersex”. This does not negate biological sex. The fact that some people are born with missing limbs does not mean that 4 limbs are not the norm. There are people who have anatomical/physiological defects that make normal sexual function difficult for them. They may need treatment and even with treatment they may not by fully functional. But they are fully human and deserve all the rights and privileges associated with that. It is also true that while most people have a gender identity and sexual preference that is concordant with their biological sex, there are exceptions (the number of people with such variant gender identities or sexual preferences is much greater than those with born with anatomic/physiologic defects, but still a relatively small minority). Again, they remain human and deserve to be treated fairly like all other humans, but they do not negate the presence of the norm. I just thought this needed to be said…

      1. This cis-trans thing is like most of modern woke discourse based on very basic philosophy 101 error of deriving ought from is. Not trivializing the error itself because I think it may be something of a glitch/feature with humans. Nobody is immune from it.

        The biological norm of sexual dimorphism is fact. It has very clear explanations in biology (indeed even mathematics – as an optimal solution to maximizing fitness) and incontrovertible evidence in nature (XX and XY chromosomal pairs). A digital signal which even a machine can understand let alone a human brain.

        However, normativity is a moral concept, which masquerades as biological fact. It is a function of human moral choice. The friction exists purely because we do not yet have the technology to affect change to our biological hardware in line with the choice our mind (software) has made. So people compensate by reading their moral choices into natural facts.

        Like with most things better technology will solve this problem.

      1. hoju:
        It’s clear that you are joking and that link is fake, but given the current extremely fraught times, I’d refrain from even joking about this stuff. There are folks looking out constantly to be outraged and to cancel at the slightest hint of divergence from the woke-census. We don’t want to indavertently cancel anyone, least of all, our Maha pundit 1008 Shri Omar Ali ji.

          1. But, if you give up your right to sarcasm, jokes and mockery out of fear of the woke, then the woke win.

    1. Shunyata more so than Advaita is actually best Indian philosophy for making sense of post-modernist narratives.

      Takes deconstruction to its logical and absurd extreme.

      Then concludes that no ultimate truth exists independently, but true and false can still exist relatively speaking.

      The punchline is since the relative world is all there is, true and false still exist, just empirically or relatively rather than absolutely.

      Thus the added epistemic layer of (non-existent) ultimate truth allows for attachment to be dropped and empirical truths to flourish.

  3. “Intellectuals” have caught up to psychedelic rock bands from 45 years ago:

    “Ride The Tiger” | Jefferson Starship | Slick, Kantner, & Yu

    It’s like a tear in the hands of a western man
    Tell you about salt, carbon and water
    But a tear to an oriental man
    He’ll tell you about sadness and sorrow or the love of a man and a woman.

  4. The fact remains that before the British recast Indian society in their image certain kinds of alternative gender identities and behaviours were not only tolerated but actively accommodated.

    The Brits made these ‘problematic’ (as Kabir would say) and even illegal. What kinds of ‘narratives’ we now develop to express this is interesting (and sometimes silly) but need not distract from the above.

  5. Race and gender are both Western constructs, so yes, the Brits invented both “Brown” and “man”.

    1. Hoju,

      Gender is purely a biological thing. Which is why every language has words for male and female. Which is why every culture acknowledges the male and the female. There is no ‘gender’ and ‘sex.’ There is only sex-the biological part.

      1. “Sex” (XX or XY) is biological. “Gender” (male or female) is socially constructed. Children have to be taught what behaviors are acceptable for males or females. This is why de Beauvoir said “one is not born a woman, one becomes one”. Gender roles have also evolved through time.
        Gender being a social construction is the consensus in social science. It is only the right wing which refuses to move past biology.

  6. Sudhir Chaudhary is the editor-in-chief of Zee News, one of India’s most popular Hindi news channels and extremely Modi-leaning.

    (Tucker Carlson might be a rough equivalent character in US)

    He has an hour long ‘Daily News and Analysis’ segment. In an episode covering Black Lives Matter, he kept exhorting the viewers to learn from the protestors and go uproot every single statue, building, monument made by the British in India.

    It seems to me that the right in India is perfectly capable of playing to the international woke gallery if it wants to, although they do this mainly to get back at the English speaking liberal elite.

    1. Nope. Better analogy than Tucker would be Alex Jones. Sudhir Chaudhary is a bona fide kook and conspiracy theorist.

    2. Also, as I have argued on these forums and privately to my friends, the wokeness, grievance-mongering, and victimhood mentality in India, all come from the right (unlike in the US, where it’s entirely the left.)

      1. “wokeness, grievance-mongering, and victimhood mentality in India, all come from the right”

        Disagree with this. Indian right-wing certainly has a victimhood complex but it’s the leftists it has learnt this from.

        The right blames Mughals and the British. The left blames “Brahminical patriarchy”, capitalism and the British.

        Maybe we travel in different circles.

        “Sudhir being tucker is a bit much, don’t ya think ”

        I am not very familiar with American television news. Just wanted to pick a Fox type anchor who’s not as far gone as Sean Hannity.

        To be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of Sudhir Chaudhary either except for the last few weeks of lockdown.

        What I like about his show is the absence of shouting.

        Also, why do all these news channels keep playing some Dark Knight kind of loud background noise even for trivial news?
        I can imagine a lot of people getting stressed.

        1. Regardless of whether left or the right is the original offender in the woke dynamics, what surprised me is the ineptitude of the left to see how the right in India eventually co-opts the same politics and wins. And the left still goes at it.

          Almost all left’s weapons in India, nationalism, identity politics, subaltern politics (farmers, labor movement) , caste politics (Bahujan vs UCs) were all invented to fracture the right’s power. And eventually what it lead to is even bigger consolidation after the initial setback to the right. I assume the new generation weapons of woke-ness, victim-hood, statue breaking, doxxing employees to get them fired, all will soon co-opted by the right and left will be at the receiving end.

          On FOX and Sudhir , lets just say all of India’s hindi channels are just watsapp on TV. And the English right wing ones have just started out so let see where it goes.

        2. Prats:

          The left blames “Brahminical patriarchy”, capitalism and the British.

          None of this is spoken by ordinary people. Perhaps there are uttered by people in esoteric publications? And yes, it could be that we travel in very different circles, but FYI, I’m talking about people who work for software MNCs in Bangalore; the views I hear from people are what I would call “soft Hindutva”. And then I know folks in my extended family who would be quite “hard Hindutva”. I know literally one leftie in India 🙂

          In the US, on the other hand, it seems like most of the younger generation is steeped in Critical Transgender Theory or equivalent woke BS. I lived a decade in the country, and the vast majority of people I met were liberals and Democrats, though they didn’t strike me as too far left. But I see most of them on Facebook these days spouting woke views and siding heavily with the current “insurgents”.

          1. ” I know literally one leftie in India ”
            Do we know the same guy? 😛

            But seriously i guess one reason is leftie is no more fashionable is India anymore, being woke is. So folks who are lefties have this dissonance that they are not leftie, because, hey they believe free markets(regulated of course ) . Like one guy has his Twitter DP is with Che Guverra, but thinks he is a centrist, because he’s a Bong and his family feels Marx was a centrist.

            I have friends who post “abolish police” while simultaneously checking their green card status, on the other tab

          2. “None of this is spoken by ordinary people. Perhaps there are uttered by people in esoteric publications?”

            Not at all!

            I am assuming you’re in your late 30s or 40s. But this kind of esoteric critical studies shit is common among 20s and early 30s English speaking yuppies in larger cities. Getting even more common among younger folks.

            I’d written about my experiences with dating apps earlier on one of the other posts. They are a good place to get an overview of how much leftist this cohort is.

            The number of ‘intersectional’ feminists and people who want to destroy capitalism is astounding.

            We are obviously talking about the “middle class” here. The vast majority of the people in the country do not fall into western categories of left or right anyway. They’re mostly loyal to their caste/community.

      2. @Numinous

        I totatly agree, in the Indian scene, if you want to see identity politics, grievance mongering, scapegoating, screeching whining, trolling, violence in crowds, demands for “bowing the knee”; I just need to look at the far right wing bhakts to see the mirror image of the american far leftist “wokes”.

  7. Hoju,

    Gender is purely a biological thing. Which is why every language has words for male and female. Which is why every culture acknowledges the male and the female. There is no ‘gender’ and ‘sex.’ There is only sex-the biological part.

    Once you understand that, you understand the gender/sex thing created by modern Western Leftist is a clever trick which has fooled many people.

    You will also see the whole idea of transgenderism makes no sense. It is one thing to be a man who acts like women. It is another thing to then say you are magically somehow a woman.

    Woman and man are biological characteristics. Period.

  8. the transgender Hijra people of India, who, prior to British imperial rule, were exalted in their communities, tasked with important legal duties like collecting taxes and duties

    Who are these supposed to be? The eunuchs who used to guard the harems of Muslim aristocrats, and occasionally promoted to bigger roles (like Malik Kafur)?

    Given how hijras behave, and are treated, in modern India, I call BS on this claim that pre-British India was a trans-paradise of some sort. Likely, they were treated as freaks and butts of jokes as they are are today without any formal legal impediment being placed in front of them. Anyway, the line between law and custom was blurry in India anyway, like in all traditional societies. It was the British, like other northern Europeans, who were outliers (I think) in strictly separating law from custom and enforcing the former a lot more vigorously.

    1. It would be kind of peculiar to have a pre-colonial society that treated women so poorly somehow venerate its trans population. But it all makes sense when you understand that the British gave us gender.

    2. Hinduism accepted the third sex. Lord Shiva has a form which is half man and half woman. Even the “Kama Sutra” has a chapter on eunuchs.

      Many pre-colonial societies had a more complex understanding of sex/gender than the Western two sex model.

    3. All of this. There’s also the fact that South Asia was a somewhat legalistic society, and therefore law books from various religions would mention an exalted status if it existed.

      There’s also the fact that this author seems to use a very narrow band of sources.

    4. Gender-fluidity and role-inversion was very much a part of Ancient India and also Classical India.

      Ardhanarisvara is referenced so many times in the Upanishad that if sufficiently translated and origin-masked, it would be easy to sell it as a Woke manual for SJWs. Purusa-Prakriti references in Samkhya are also similar.

      Only in medieval India, did gender-fluidity start being associated with gatekeeping eunuchs (forcefully castrated) and in modern India, with the advent of Victorian Protestants (extreme distaste for deviants), as societal misfits.

      The drive to root identity in “biology and biology alone” is very reactionary and lacking philosophical or spiritual depth.

    5. Likely, they were treated as freaks and butts of jokes

      A not so hidden message.

      Now, if I so inclined, (digging a hole for myself, what the heck am I saying), I’d say you are something phobic or something philic ||

  9. @Hoju,

    Tell me, how did Brits invent the “Brown” and the “White man.”? Are you saying Indians did not notice the strange white men who came to their country and not acknowledge the white men were different? Race was not invented, it was observed.

    Razib’s blog coves population genetics a lot. We can tell you different populations of world have different ancestry. That’s what population genetics is all about. Is understand diversity of ancestry of human populations.

    White Europeans share lots of common ancestry with ach other. Indians share lots of common ancestry with each other.

    Answer these questions…..
    Are South Indians & North Indians, all 1 billion people of India, more related to each other than to Europeans?

    Are Europeans more related to each other than to Indians?

    If the answer is yes, to both those question then yes Europeans and Indians are two different races.

    Overall, all the people of India have very similar ancient ancestry. The same goes for the vast majority of Europeans.

    Race does not mean fundamentally different breeds, it does not mean fundmentally different organisms. It only means two different populations who have different ancestirs.

    The idea race is a social construct is silly. It is mainly American intelectuals who say it is. But, DNA clearlly shows that the three races in the Americas, the Black man White man Red man are factualy. They are quite literally three different races. French more related to English, Cherokke more related to Mayan, Yoruba more related to Egbo.

    It is possible to create a fake racial category. This is what happened with ideas of “Alphine race” and “Nordic race” and others. Many Westerners all brown skinned people of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and India into the same racial category even though they are all very diverse and not at all one race.

    Yet, usually by looking physical features, we can identify basic racial groups. East Asians, yeah obviously they’re related to each other. This is no social construct, this is a simple observation.

    1. In the US, people were classified as black based on the “one drop rule”. This is a social construction not biology.
      Even the idea of “White” people is a social construction. There was a point in US history when Italians were not considered “white”. Now they are.

      The only people who argue that race is not a social construction are the right wing.

      1. “The only people who argue that race is not a social construction are the right wing.”
        I think race is more like a gender thing and both of these in turn are spectra. I identify mostly as right wing. Binary gender or strictly 3/4/5 races are social constructs. We might see more/less races as time goes on.

        At the same time, I don’t deny that races/gender exist. These are social constructs that measure how much an individual fits in with the social norms of that area. Again, these things really depend up on culture as well.

        1. The colors like ‘blue’ or ‘red’ etc are social constructs.

          Just because something is constructed doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in a meaningful sense or lacks utility.

          I guess the question is what is the value of gender, race etc. as constructs.

        2. @Kabir,

          First the basics. Race is a fundmental part of biology. By that I mean, populations of organisms with different ancestires is fundmental to biology. It why different specieis exist. It is why diversity of life exists.

          To say, there is genetic diversity amoung humans makes sense when you first consider that basic rule of biology which applies to all living things including humans.

          Our species has existed for maybe 500,000 years. We became diverse in that time. The most basic, is Neanderthal in West Eurasia & modern humans in Africa. Are Neanderthals and humans not two different races? They are.

          So, it is not crazy to then say modern humans have also diversified into different ‘races.’ That makes sense.

          Race doesn’t have to mean fundmental different organism. All it means is people from different regions of the world have differet ancestry.

          You say race in US is social construction. Then answer this question for me.

          Do Native Americans, Europeans, and West Africans have different ancestries? Are Spanish more related to English than to Mayans? Are Mayans more related to Cherokee than to Spanish?

          Do African disparso have shared ancestry? Do Europeans have shared ancestry? Do Native Americans have shared ancestry.

          The answer of course is yes. And because of that, yes Europeans & Native Americans & Africans are different races.The fact is ancestrally, those three are three different races.

          This is such an obvious fact, we can proof with DNA, I don’t get what you guys who say race is social construct are going with this.

          What do you believe? Do you believe Ameridians, Europeans, And Africans aren’t different? They they don’t make three seperate groups?

          There’s like no logic to your claim.

        3. “In the US, people were classified as black based on the “one drop rule”. This is a social construction not biology.”

          No that is biology dude. Think about. What is in that one drop? It is African ancestry which is biology.

          You have to understand the reason the one drop rule existed. It is white Americans were racist. They didn’t want anyone, even with a drop of African ancestry. That’s how much they disliked Negroes. If you were even 1/4, they didn’t want anything to do with you.

          1. The “one drop rule” was not based on phenotype. A white-passing African American would still be considered Black if their ancestry was known.

            Perhaps you are not American or English is not your first language, but the word “Negro” is no longer considered socially acceptable. The only people who use it are racists.

            No one is saying that there are not some biological differences between groups but “Race” is a social construction.

            Jews were not considered “White” in the US. They are now. This is an arbitrary matter of classification.

        4. “Even the idea of “White” people is a social construction. There was a point in US history when Italians were not considered “white”. Now they are.”

          Italians were not considered white for good reason because they can be distinguished from Northern Europeans. In other words it is for biological reasons. Some of them even have brown skin.

          Sure, people consider Italians white now, but they doesn’t mean they think they’re exactly the same as Northern Europeans. People understand there’s diversity in Europe, the word white doesn’t control how they see people.

          “Constructs” have less power over people’s minds than leftists say they do. Just because Italians are called white, doesn’t mean people see them as the exact same as English or Germans.

          Also, If you look at DNA, the Southern Italians/Sicilians aren’t exactly European. They are 40% Middle Eastern. That’s a big reason they don’t exactly look “white.”

          1. Ask yourself this Kabir.

            Could someone will nilly call Polish people black. Do you think people would believe that?

            No they wouldn’t, because being black is genetically inherited. It is not a madeup social construct. Race is not just some madeup idea, it is rooted in observance of objective facts.

            Sure, People can make false inference about genetics. People can make false claims about what is race. But, those claims will always be based on features inherited genetically.

            For example, are Papuans Black? No not really. They look African they have black skin, but they aren’t actually African in ancestry. If people considered Papuans black it is not because black is a social construct, it is because sometimes determining ancestry by appearance is difficult.

            This is a huge issue with leftwing philosophy. They are extremely critical of objective reality. They think people makeup reality. They assume ideas are mental/social constructions not observances of things outside ourselves.

            So, their knee jerk reaction when they see any claim about reality, “It is not true, It is just a mental/social construction.”

            Why can’t you understand the idea of race is based on observances of objective reality? Sometimes, they’re wrong inferences. But, the basics of the claims of race are correct.

  10. @Samuel,

    Sorry, just been on a bit of a sarcasm bender. Probably should tone that down given that it isn’t easily conveyed in text and can be misconstrued.

    1. Come on, even our Indus King Indthings has somehow vanished, if u tone it down, then what will i do?

      Unless we have couple of fights with Dravidians and Pakistanis, us Aryans don’t a good night sleep.

      1. @Saurav

        “Unless we have couple of fights with Dravidians and Pakistanis, us Aryans don’t a good night sleep.”

        Saurav have a question for you. You and some others are always going off about dravidian nationalism/ideology or whatever, where are they? I am generally curious, in this statement, even though in jest, it make it seem they frequent this blog. I have never once seem anyone come on here and defend a “dravidian” position or argue from that position. Are there any examples you can give, or names of posters that hold to these beliefs? Just would love to hear what their views are, as we hear plenty from the “Aryan” views, lol.

        1. lol, it was jk.

          Anyways that makes me curios, what are these “plenty from the Aryan views” ? Unless you mean Hindu nationalist views, which are abound on these blog.

          Which would mean Aryan=Hindu, and in that case i agree 😛

        2. Saurav’s position is some kind of ethnocentrist , otoh his is a pseudo ethnocentrism as his ideas have no precedent in any leaders or sects of north Indian Hindus.

          His is ersatz ethnocentrism

          1. Hey i was just putting 2 and 2 together man, no hard feelings

            Anyway we live in a world, where everyone believes their own truth

  11. I agree more with Numinious. Just because Hindu text and all sort of say some flowery stuff about Hijras etc , need not mean that it was some sort of paradise pre-Brits in India. All this glorification comes from this innate desire to show that it was the Brits who were the real barbarians.

    For the most part these people were outcasts similar to how witches were treated in the west. Where society used to largely met out punishment rather than Kings and landlords.

    1. To this, Witzel adds, “The Indo-Aryan loanwords in Mitanni confirm the date of the Rig Veda for c.1200-1000 BCE.”

      So Rig Veda only 400 years before buddha?

    2. To this, Witzel adds, “The Indo-Aryan loanwords in Mitanni confirm the date of the Rig Veda for c.1200-1000 BCE.”

      So Rig Veda only 400 years before buddha?

  12. These things are trivial to understand through the lens of probability distributions and statistics.

    When we do clustering (e.g. via K-means clustering) over many types of data, often most of the data points clumps in few clusters with some outliers which don’t go into either cluster. This is especially true when generated by multi-modal distributions. In case of sex most of the data points (individuals in this case) will always naturally fall into either of 2 clusters, whichever algorithm we use. Such a clustering is entirely algorithmic and hence devoid of human biases or cultural & societal baggage. So the categories (which are the clusters), can be thought of pre-existing and “objective” in some sense. Then again there will also be outlier individuals who could fall on a continuum between the categories and not belong to either cluster. This too is often a property of the multimodal probability distributions which generated the data.

    This is a simple experiment anyone can do. One would just need to define physical and behavioral features which one assumes depend on the sex/gender. Regardless of how restricted or exhaustive such definition is the results are a foregone conclusion. And the two clusters will naturally pop out when this is fed to a computer. That is also why, perhaps, nobody does this experiment. Because the results is a foregone conclusion.

    So the problem is not in the categories, but our inability to understand that categories often co-exist with outliers. Both can be real.

  13. @Geometer, Exactly.

    @Hoju and other Indians,

    Eunchs were a normal part of the Ancient World. I[m not suprise to hear from they existed in India. They also existed in China, Roman empire, and other places in ancient times.

    Eunchs weren’t transgender. They weren’t there because the society didn’t believe in two genders. They were castrated males who people didn’t want them to reproduce for whatever reasons.

    For example, Arabs would castrate African male slaves. Because, they didn’t want African communities to form in their countries.

    The Chinese emperors castrated their male servants so those servants wouldn’t have sexual relationships with the females in his house.

    I don’t know about eunchs in India. But I am 100% sure it had little to nothing to do with the gender stuff modern Western people talk about.

    I don’t trust what you guys say about gender in tradtional Indian culture. I would trust Hindu Nationalist, tradtionalist, and common people in India who know nothing of Western education. I’d be willing to bet my life they only believe in male and female.

    No one said male and female are social constructs till the 20th century. No one spoke of gender in the terms you guys do till the 20th century. The only construct is the modern view on gender.

    To everyone else in the world and in history, gender is simple: Male and female. It is a purely biological thing. It is not about the clothes you wear or your behavior.

    1. Here is my experience as w.r.t transgenders in India. Most of my family is from the Northern parts of state of Telangana. I grew up in a family that is inclined towards listening/watching a lot of stories from epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, particularly Mahabharata. There is a character called Shikhandi [1], we were told that this character is a transgender, locally referred to as Khodja/Hijra etc. Transgenders are ‘accepted’ in Indian society doesn’t mean that they are celebrated. Frequently they’re made fun off too! Some interactions with transgenders have been outright violent in the recent past as well owing to the fact that many straight men are taking advantage of the transgender position by cross dressing. Again, gender and sexuality are mostly kept private in Indian (Hindu) society, what you do in your bedroom is none of your neighbour’s business. If you neighbours come to know that your sexuality/gender is off the ‘norms’ then you might be made of fun of but rarely do you get attacked like in the west. Gender and sexuality is not something you should celebrate or feel proud of. One of my uncles is a realtor, sometime ago he invited a transgender person for ground breaking ceremony for one of his projects. He was jovial about it and nothing serious. At least in our area there is a belief that transgenders bring good luck to you. He was just trying his luck to improve profits in his venture by following that local tradition. That doesn’t mean that he is very friendly to the transgender community nor does he go out on to the streets cheering for the transgender community.
      [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikhandi

      1. “Transgenders are ‘accepted’ in Indian society doesn’t mean that they are celebrated. Frequently they’re made fun off too!”
        This is an impossibly high bar for acceptance. Is there someone not made fun of ? Pandits and maulvis are made fun of. Does that mean religion is not accepted ? In India everyone makes fun of everyone else.
        “Some interactions with transgenders have been outright violent in the recent past…”
        The recent past is different from traditional norms. This is where British and Middle Eastern sensibilities come in. Modern India can no longer produce the likes of Khajuraho – or even sculptures like those of Ajanta/Ellora – because we find naked human bodies shameful now.

        1. “British and Middle Eastern sensibilities come in”

          I would frame this is a “sensibilities of Christendom and Dar-al-Islam”

  14. If Ardhanarishvara is a sign of Indian acceptance of non-binary identities, then what does Narasimha signify?

    Maybe we were that woke that you could identify as a unicorn or centaur or whatever. The West is only getting there now.

    Or maybe it’s a sign of how accepting India was of zoosexuality?

    In reality, I think pointing to Ardhanarishvara as a sign of Indian wokeness with respect to non-binary identities is simply a modern reinterpretation of mythology that likely did not intend anything of the sort. Most Hindu iconography, including Ardhanarishvara, is laden with symbolic meanings, none of which to my knowledge are indicative of an embrace of non-binary identities.

    1. That such symbols could exist – unlike in Abrahamic traditions – says something.

      “Acceptance” presumes some sort of reservations that need to be overcome. When you have no hangups you dont need to “accept”.

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