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Dear editor,

 

In Mr. Dunkerley’s recent article, “Embracing gender-deviant people’s societal roles,” he made the claim that Western society does not make room for those who do not fit within our gender binary — that is, male and female. He seem­ingly cel­e­brates the societal role of the pre-colonial Hijra, gender-deviant Indians, mostly eunuchs and trans­ves­tites who served as guards, dancers, and singers. The gender rev­o­lution, however, is a con­tro­versy of the 21st century, so we should start in the here and now.

As it stands, many argue that gender-deviant people are rejected from main­stream society and stig­ma­tized in the West — hence the argument for bathroom accom­mo­da­tions. In our dis­cussion of such problems, we should not look to Indian society, which main­tains a caste system to this day. A caste system degrades those who do not fall into the higher ech­elons of society. It treats human beings like animals, and gives no oppor­tunity for rising in the ranks of society. The role of the Hijra in modern-day India is over­whelm­ingly sex traf­ficking. They gen­erally live in the lower dregs of society, from which there is no escape. The name “Hijra” is even used as a derogatory term.

As West­erners, a people who, up until the modern era, have held the two-gender binary system as sacred to society, we should not look at the back­wards soci­eties of old tribes in Africa or India’s caste system for inspi­ration. Mr. Dunkerley walks a dan­gerous line by asking the question, “How could we max­imize the utility of deviant-gen­dered indi­viduals in society?” The Indian caste system has done a stunning job of “max­i­mizing” the utility of human beings; for trans­gender or inter­sexed indi­viduals, this seems to be the utility of sex traf­ficking. Cre­ating a third gender for these people to conform to is not freeing: in fact, it is enslaving.  

 

Sin­cerely,

Philip Berntson