A ‘trans’ turn to geographies of sexuality: perspectives from South Asia

Authors: Shamayeta Bhattacharya*, University of Connecticut, Debs Ghosh, University of Connecticut, Debanuj Dasgupta, University of California, Santa Barbara
Topics: Gender, Asia, Sexuality
Keywords: Transgender Geography, Queer Geography, South Asia, Hijra, Kothi, qualitative mapping
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 50
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

A review identified that the current scope of Transgender Geography primarily focused on transgender lives and experiences from the Global North. Doing so, only reiterated the binary thinking of gay/lesbian experiences, and recently queer geography further homogenized the vastly distinctive experiences of bisexuals, transgenders, intersex, and cross-dressers.
In this paper, we steer towards South Asia for understanding how space, place, and non-binary gender identities are co-constitutive of each other; rooted in the long history and geographical diversity of cultural recognition of individuals on a gender-continuum but not necessarily their acceptance. We first map and describe the geographical variation of both the cultural and linguistic variations of non-binary gender identities (e,g. Hijra, Kothi, Meti, Ponnaya, ‘third’ gender) in South Asia. Second, we discuss research opportunities and challenges that may arise as individuals experience extreme marginalization and an identity crisis; having to switch/adapt to popular identities owing to Westernization, NGOization, and neo-colonialism. Third, we offer examples from our current studies in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal about how we recognize the diversity of gender identities under the term ‘transgender’ and study the nuances of their lived experiences in respect to access to healthcare, clean drinking water, sustainable development, well-being, and substantive human rights.
In conclusion, while we highlight the over-reliance on geographies of sexuality research from Global North, we argue that recognizing variation of gender identities; experiences of different geographically diversified gendered communities in cities of South Asia, and associated research needs are emerging areas for the future growth of Transgender geography.

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