Aravanis, or hijras, have been the invisible yet hypervisible subjects of a societal gaze – looked at, talked about, feared, revered, cursed, and imagined.
These landmark narratives still retain the authenticity, simplicity and rawness of life stories of courage, pain, searching, and both triumph and despair, told without agenda.
Hijras have largely stood as metaphors, refused individual histories, lives, identities and selves by a society that reduces them to corporeal bodies, stereotypes and objects of disdain. Yet this gaze has been challenged and subverted time and time again by a community that refuses to be ashamed or see itself as the victim.
Some of the greatest victories in recent history in this battle for rights have been won in Tamil Nadu – the first state in India where the government recognised many of the rights of the hijra community. The stories in this volume chronicle many of the aravanis who were part of this groundbreaking change. Indeed, in Tamil, these stories were some of the first narratives of hijra lives told to, written by and produced entirely by the members of the community themselves.
The narratives in Our Lives Our Words appear in English for the first time.