Question: International Third Gender

K asks…

I am going to be living in the Indian subcontinent and I was wondering if I wonder if I could declare myself as a sadhin. Does anybody know about the legalities etc. of this?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on August 30th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 8 comments »

8 Responses to “Question: International Third Gender”

  1. Lucien

    I don’t know about this, but I’m fairly certain that if info gets changed and you get a notarized certificate from that country (such as a new passport or ID with that info) then the US is supposed to accept it if/when you return. But this is something I’ve never thought of, but I know it often works for names and sometimes marriages. Very interesting.

    There is somewhere that has 8 genders… but for the life of me, I can’t think of where it is right now.


    CATS replied:

    Native Americans. Several tribes in native america has four or five genders and a few with 7 and 8. Don’t know if that many gender categories exist in a single population any where else in the world but i wouldn’t be surprised.


  2. S

    I live in India… and unless it’s very important to you to do this, I would suggest that you leave it out. Hijras aren’t socially integrated into mainstream society, however attractively Wikipedia may describe them :D

    As for being a sadhin, it isn’t exactly applicable anywhere except among the Gaddhi. As far as Indians are concerned, all white women dress in mens’ clothes and it’s quite normal.

    Indians can be very tolerant… but you shouldn’t take that for granted with everyone. What part of India are you going to?

    [Edit: Sorry for assuming that you’re white! Although it’s applicable for all female foreigners…]


    K replied:

    I am white and that’s a relief…and very sad.

    Wikipedia was only the most recent bit of information on Hijras that I’d seen. I had been led to believe that things had gotten better once the third gender had become legally recognized :(

    India, through the Peace Corps, is currently full of volunteers. By the time I go, there’s no way of knowing whether or not that will still be the case, so I might end up in Thailand or Cambodia instead. THANK YOU!!!


  3. Jessica

    I would counsel you also to be very careful. Regardless of what you read or who you talk to – India is a very big place and there are many many different Indias. It may be true that you could actualize yourself by adopting this role, but there may be powerful consequences unlooked for. It is dangerous to go paddling about in any one else’s culture and unless you have a very safe and secure exit strategy, I would advise against it.


  4. Anonymous

    erm i dove deep into india. was totally out with my intersex stories. (am a performer)
    the indians would look at hijras and at me and say “i see the connection but you are not that”. the ardhanarishwara space is where i fit. went on a lovely roadtrip with a shivite priest n rode motorcycles all over while it was not all fun for the most part i really enjoyed the place and am going back for a long while to write the stories into a book. loved the beyond the binary spiritual dimension. in many ways i felt safer there than in the US. the indians overall are a kind sweet people that i enjoyed much. one must let go of the illusion of control to function well though. i just accepted that i was no more important than a dust mote and fell in love w/ the mind bending dance…..


  5. S

    Thank you for sharing that experience, Anonymous. I’m very happy to hear that. However, there is a very marked difference in attitudes regarding artists and performers and people in more rigid careers. Performers and dancers in India have a long history filled with attitudes about sexuality and gender that the west can neither incorporate nor fully understand.

    As Jennifer said, there are many different Indias. But I can confidently say that no matter what you ‘come out’ as, your safety won’t be at great risk, unless you put yourself in vulnerable situations. People might not understand what you mean, but the worst kind of discrimination you’re likely to face is: ‘Look at how stupid Americans are and how they’re not satisfied with anything’.

    There may be instances where you could be harassed physically, like in the street… but there are chances of that even if you don’t say anything about gender. The only advice I can give you is to dress modestly (more modestly than the US definition ;), try to move with groups of people that you know, and always have some money on you. Beggars and people like that will always try to rip a foreigner off. Be safe, and enjoy your trip!


  6. ardhanarishwari

    be careful with the beggars. it is very hard but do not give. it can lead to a very intense mob scene. even the touts are a challenge. they have learned that extreme persistence wears folk down to part with cash. when i did some random bus travel i would walk with purpose several hundred feet (at least) n then sit and get my bearings. being bothered only seems to happen when one is confused in a new place.

    so when i was flying over i fretted bout landing in mumbai at 2 am and in chatting about that w my seatmates got the offer of ” we have taxi waiting and just come with us to our house in pune” i did and it was a blissful easy trusting way for the maiden trip. one can not count on this but pleasant surprises do happen. ended up involved with pride in bangalore and “sangama” is an amazing hijra n 3rd gender center…..

    i do have to say though that if you have “ANY” control issues that country will bring you to your knees very quickly. you HAVE to let go into flow n then the sweetness will blossom. dancing happy bout going back ~;-)


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