Kashmir Transgender Community Fight to Exist

By TMPlanet

Throughout the conflicts of the Kashmir Valley, the transgender community has been struggling for existence as well as for their authentic identity. Most are abandoned by families and shamed by society. Recognized by the Supreme Court as a ‘third gender’, that has forced many to withdraw from public life, making their existence a virtual social death.¹

They have been shunned through the history of Jammu and Kashmir, yet there is a reach history according to activists, as matchmakers and those able to bestow blessings. These have been their only form of income in present-day Kashmir, and that has now come under threat. Hopefully things will change for the better, as the Jammu and Kashmir high court has finally taken notice of an LGBT activist and scholar from Kashmir University, Aijaz Ahmad Bund, who has been continuing a seven year struggle, away from the media glare, fighting for the rights of transgender people.

On August 11, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey directed the government to respond to a PIL filed by Bund, seeking the protection of rights of transgender people; their social, political and economic inclusion in society and reservations in government jobs and educational institutions. Supporting Bund in this fight is his colleague Farah Ashraf, who is also a scholar at the university’s social welfare department and a post-graduate student, Enus Shafi Khan.

There is no credible data about transgender people in Jammu and Kashmir as in most countries around the world. The first-ever census of rural India in 2015,² put their number at 477, though only 97 transgender people had registered themselves with the Election Commission a year earlier. These figures have however been contradicted by transgender people and activists.

“The government, the people, everybody wants us to perish from the face of the earth, so why should they be concerned about us?” said Dazy Jan, who identifies herself as a trans-woman, from uptown Srinagar.


She belongs to a group of  close friends, all transgender, and have been matchmaking for the last five-seven years to make a living.

Dazy considers herself “lucky” for not having been thrown out of the house by her family.

“My parents always shout at me. They question my sense of dressing and my passion for keeping long hair and wearing loud makeup. They even beat me in the past but now I have got used to all the criticism,” she says softly.

However, there are many like 27-year-old Razia, who after facing constant harassment from family, fled home never to return again. She has been living with her friend Neelofar, who is also trans, in a rented room in Srinagar for the last three years.

In his 2013 research paper titled, Other Sex: A Study on Problems of Transgender Women of District Srinagar for the International Journal of Scientific Research, Bund, was based on interviews with a 100 transgender people, and talks about the harassment that we face; including verbal abuse, assault, bullying, sexual violence and social restrictions. This has forced some people of the community to migrate and avoid participation in social institutions like schools, attend weddings and festivals and go to places of worship.

Most local transgender people have been matchmakers ,a traditional profession, apart from singing and dancing at weddings in Kashmir, but now they are losing their only source of income to disk jockeys, who are replacing them at weddings and other functions.

The financial instability has added to their worries. While their monthly income varies from Rs 6000 to Rs 20,000, many of them, mostly the older transgender people with no source of income, struggle to make ends meet.

Last winter, Khan worked on a project about the economic and social challenges faced by the community in Jammu and Kashmir, for which he spoke to a number of transgender people from across the Kashmir. Most of those he spoke too, were between the ages of 60-70 years, and they had been thrown out of their homes when they were eight or ten years old.

“The worst plight is of the old, who are all alone. I met one transgender person in her early 70s, who lives in a single makeshift mudroom at Dalgate (Srinagar). She doesn’t earn now and largely depends on help from neighbors to sustain herself,” Khan said, adding that the denial of the property rights to transgender people by their families hits them the most when they are old.

“Their life from birth to death is full of abuse, humiliation discrimination and unfortunately there is no historical account of them as if they didn’t exist,” said Khan. He added that Islam too recognizes transgender people by the name ‘mukhanathun’ in Arabic, which means ‘men who resemble women’,

“Who are we then to deny them their rights?”


It is not only physical or sexual violence that trans people face day-in and day-out, the years of harassment has led to several psychological disorders, like depression, suicidal tendencies, panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, Bund’s study found.

According to renowned psychiatrist Dr. Arshad Hussain, the community’s continuing struggle for survival in Jammu and Kashmir has resulted in mental health issues for them.

“They are stigmatized in our culture with hugely defined roles assigned to two genders making them misfits not only in the larger society but also within families,” Hussain said.

There is hope. For the first time, Kashmir University’s social science department has approved a thesis study on the transgender community. This is part of many important steps at the academic level, in establishing the identity of transgender people.


“It will help to bring the plight of transgender community to the forefront. It is important also because it is the first initiative, from the highest seat of learning in the country,” said Khan, hoping that this will go a long way in addressing the issues of the community.

Bund added: “Ours is an inclusive movement. We have started with transgender people because they are the one of the most vulnerable and visible victims in the spectrum.”


  1. The Third Gender throughout history
  2. Report on the first census of Trans people in India
  3. Research by Aijaz Ahmad Bund; Other Sex: A Study on Problems of Transgender women of District Srinagar .pdf
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The Gifts of the Dying: Finding the Elusive Resolution

Lynnea Urania Stuart


How he began his class left some of his students feeling “weirded out” as some of them said.  As soon as he settled the issues of attendance and petitions for admission he rose up from his seat, saying, “This morning I talked to the Ocean.  I asked what I should teach so that you could understand.”

“Talked to the Ocean?”  Was this professor nuts?  I smiled while others looked upon him while growing pale with apprehension.  The Registrar had placed us in good hands.  I immediately felt deep admiration for this old man who talked to the Ocean.  His lecture made sense once you understood its context.  He didn’t absurdly speak to the Ocean as littoral water.  He spoke to the Ocean because he sensed Life had profoundly filled the sea and he wanted to convey its meaningfulness to his students. 

He drew a line on the board.  On the left he marked the place of birth.  On the right he marked the place of death.  “What do we consider to make this segment in-between worth experiencing?”

It’s long been much of the grist of Philosophy, at least for those who grasp the phileō1 of Philosophy.  It demands examination after Plato’s spirit who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”2   But what drives that examination is the simple fact that everyone who lives must also come to terms with the end of life. 

 In other words, unless one faces death one can’t really live.  To be disconnected to one is to be disconnected with the other.  Face it.  The end of life ever looms as a virtually inevitable and unavoidable phenomenon.  Is living a duty imposed?  Should life be embraced and enjoyed?  Why even bother to go through all of this?

The answer’s different for everyone.  We might have billions of perspectives and not one of us can point to the next and say with absolute certainty and without dogma that it’s wrong.  But you’d think that transpeople, a demographic who for centuries has been appointed to ostracism, extermination, and erasure should understand better than anyone this relationship between death and life. 



When it comes to discussing death, we encounter no shortage of zealots who not only refuse to discuss it, but forbid anyone else to discuss it, denouncing everyone who does so as a “negative thinker.”  This, of course is false because “negative thinking” is really an epistemological belief system that proposes: “We cannot know what is; but can only know what is not.”  The vernacular of “negative thinking” we so often hear amounts to subversion to individual narcissists who hide from the inevitable while covering their tracks with psychobabble.

Some of these are even staunch religionists who refuse to engage in necessary activities such as preparation of a Will, or even a Living Will.  Some also forbid their spouses to do so.  Everyone should prepare such documents and update them periodically.  It’s a matter of good stewardship of resources and protection of the living.  Unless you have a complicated estate or beneficiaries inclined to bicker over the dispensation thereof you might not even need an attorney.  There’s no shortage of print and online resources to guide anyone capable of thinking through the process for themselves to make both documents and to guide survivors who address estate matters in propria persona.3

Nobody should have to kowtow to the imposition of permanent denial, disallowing even a remote mention of the end of life.  It’s a shameful disservice.  The same people often live in fear themselves and demand that others live in fear the same way.

Why should this so often happen in churches, the very congregations that brag about being “ready” for Jesus to come and that death shouldn’t be feared because it’s been conquered in His resurrection?   The answer appears to lurk in the societal dynamic of many churches, where parishioners have only been offered temporary assurances of divine acceptance while leaving them to never ending cycles of psychological dependency upon human leaders.  Those who choose another approach may find themselves being redefined as “unbelievers” to be “converted” all over again to the satisfaction of manipulative cultists whose demands for acceptance increase with each cycle.

If that’s not enough, we find much the same with many medical practitioners when it comes to issues like cancer.  Not a few patients aren’t permitted to speak about the end of life till the practitioner is ready for them to discuss it, usually when it’s already inevitable that death is only months away and patients have been driven into bankruptcy by paying for “morally obligated” cancer treatment.  They might be counseled in this after insurance companies have abandoned constituents through rejection of coverage despite prior approval… something that happens far more often than insurers admit while hiding behind a shell game of provider territories and arbitration agreements that they had required in order to offer coverage in the first place.



It seems like a paradox how often “unbelievers” and “reprobates” approach the end of life in ways more healthy than many religionists.  Consider Friedrich Nietzsche… yup… that Nietzsche… the one who said, “God is dead,” as an indictment against religious institutions who by pretense killed the idea of God for everyone.4 He said something amazing in 1888:


“To die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly.  Death of one’s own free choice, death at the proper time, with a clear head and with joyfulness, consummated in the midst of children and witnesses: so that actual leave-taking is possible while he who is leaving is still there.”5


Most people, of course, don’t die that way.  Religionists usually don’t do this any better than “unbelievers”.  Clear-headedness and joyfulness rarely accompany the deaths of religionists.  Having worked in hospitals I’ve known not a few of the dying, many of whom died with eyes filled with horror and foreboding.  If a man approaches death as if it was only the realm of the violent and macabre, or something worthy only of horror movies, what else can he expect on his own death bed?

It brings to mind something the professor who talked to the Ocean articulated when it comes to knowing and modal realities.  Of course multiple epistemological theories exist.  But he didn’t address any of them directly.  Instead he steered close to solipsism without going over the edge.  He said:


“We know as a human knows.  What is real is what we make known.  If you don’t respect it, then you won’t see it.  There’s also an attitude that makes what’s seen a distorted nightmare.”6


Death, in this context, has become the macabre, distorted nightmare, because people have commonly made it known to be such; stuck in individual solipsism from which none can deliver; an entrapment built upon a myth of the grim reaper, rodents, vermin, and worms looking upon each of us as if to say we taste like chicken.  However, those who claim to have encountered the “Angel of Death” overwhelmingly testify that he’s really quite peaceful.  Can such testimony prove the existence thereof to everyone else?  Nope.  It’s like trying to prove the existence of God and you can’t do that and have a faith system.  But it does underscore how the difference a person’s attitude about death can make in how that person approaches the end of life.

This doesn’t diminish the validity of the grieving; far from it.  One should not be stuck in a permanent state of denial and many who view death in terror get stuck in denial a lot.  Ministry (religious or otherwise) demands that we help those who grieve to move through those stages past anger, bargaining, and depression so that they can achieve a final acceptance; and some of us who face issues pertaining to the end of life often have to pass through our own grief cycles as well.

It also calls for mindfulness.  Buddhists usually talk about this more than those in other religions.  But mindfulness, when practiced at the gates of dreaming, also assists at the gate of death.  Consider the words of the poet Theodore Roethke in The Waking who described the process of dying this way:


“This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.

What falls away is always. And is near.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.”7


So how does one practice this kind of mindfulness?  Techniques of meditation are very helpful.  But one aspect sooner or later becomes clear:  that state in which one recognizes that he’s falling asleep.  These borders of consciousness are themselves significant.  So are the dreams that happen then, if one dares to cultivate them.

In fact these kinds of dreams form a whole genus of dream phenomena:  hypnagogia.  These are various dream mechanisms that occur before Stage I sleep.  They may begin with simple phosphenes that follow the buzzing of the mind and because of that they don’t mean much.  But other species of hypnagogic phenomena offer varied rewards, even to the point of entering a dream directly from waking and in full lucidity, a practice described variously as “Set Up Dreaming” by Carlos Castaneda8 and “Waking Induction of Lucid Dreams (WILD)” by Stephen LeBerge, both versions in various publications.9

What hypnagogia offers as pertaining to the experience of dying is the capacity to watch the process with one’s full capacity of consciousness however long consciousness as we know it can be maintained.  How effectively can such mindfulness develop?  With practice one might catch the very moment a dream configures with the “snap” of a synapse.  As pertaining to the end of life, what lies beyond is poorly defined for the living.  But that state beyond, faced with clarity of mind and with good cheer, should provide the best answer and assurance for any prospect of what others might do to harm us in their cruel attempts to thwart our life purpose.



One’s perspective concerning the end of life may also profoundly change if faced with the prospect of terminal illness and has come to early acceptance.  Such a one eagerly seeks to offer the best he or she can for the living, knowing just how fleeting those moments really are.  This writer is such a person.  I’m reminded by my own health that I cannot expect to live many more years.  But after being notified that my medical coverage is no longer being accepted, I made the decision not to choose a course of treatment that promises to drain household resources to the detriment of others.  In which case, what can an assailant or assassin do to me that would be anything short of a favor?

In which case, how does that affect my view of those we memorialize at the International Transgender Day of Remembrance?  The time to start preparations for that defiance against erasure is months in advance if not a year.  But who knows if any of us will reach November 20?  When it comes to this I know I cannot know, and that’s not negative thinking in this context.  Instead it’s thinking that reminds me how needful it is for me to act with my strength while I can.

In which case, what’s the real tragedy of the dead?  Is it in the dying?  No.  It’s the life so constrained by fear and interference that it never exercised life beyond subsistence.  Because life has an end it can retain a beauty borne out of its own desperation to offer the gifts it has gathered.  And for those who dare to listen to the dying, the gifts are freely offered, and whether great or small their specialness is unexcelled.

 For that reason, I also appeal to those eager to die through suicide.  You who are eager miss my point It isn’t supposed to be easy to die.  The desire for suicide isn’t about resolution.  It offers no gift to the living.  It’s only an attempt to hide from persecution and failure when these troubles have arisen to refine you into the person you can become.  Those who suffer patiently do no wrong.  So if you find yourself at the brink today, please call the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860 in the United States.  For those in Canada, please call (877) 330-6366.

 But the gifts of the dying are something I learned about when my dearest friend one died years ago.  Our love has been called “Aristotelian”.  Some called it “Platonic”.  But our affection breached the moment of her death in 2000 when she said goodbye to me in a dream which I understood, and I confirmed the time of her death the following day.10

When such phenomena that traverse long distances from consciousness to consciousness, how can I think of them as solipsism?  I can’t.  The meaning thereof is too profound.  It’s the stuff of synchronicity and transcendence.  It said so much more than the things restricted to my own mind, an abstract gift of which I wrote a year ago:


These are things of the heart and from awakenings that most never experience but when they happen they blaze in stark and poignant reality.  They lead you into the brightest experiences and the deepest sorrows.  But in them you also find yourself.  You awaken to a larger universe with immense grandeur in beauty even in tragedy.  You come alive.  It’s as it were, the difference between existing and Be-ing.  For a transperson, that awakening of internal truths blossoms into living in a way in which one finally awakens and finds herself or himself.  They often lead one to recognize a difference in gender, driving one to shed more and more of the lies imposed from childhood.  The world often thinks of us as “freaks” not only because of our gender expression but also because we often have grasped those internal truths when most of the world has not.11


Then when the Angel comes to loose the silver cord and we escape from a world that dies a little more each day because of greed and injustice, a world fading in the shadows from the Light that beckons in its beauty, the sorrow fades in a profound happiness of innocence finally grasped in its fullness.  Have all the ostracism and violence that drove us to recognize who we are as transpeople been for nothing?  The cynical who don’t know seem to think so.  But they’re wrong.  For us, grasping the truths of our own essence developed in our incarnation has always been essential to grasping what it means to Be; through an angst in our temporality that does not leave us there forever, but tutors us in the resolution to which it all leads.




Featured image:  Parts of Theodore Roethke’s The Waking strikingly parallel Kabbalah in the unfolding from the grossly material in a circuitous route up the ‘Etz Chayim or “Tree of Life” to a spiritual unity expressed in the “Light” often recalled from near death episodes.  It’s represented in these public domain images from 2 perspectives, one in analogy of personal experience, the other mythologically depicted in the sculpture “The Angel of Death.” (Sources unknown but labeled for reuse)

  1. Phileō from the Greek φιλέω, meaning “I love” as in fondness.
  2. Plato Apology 38a
  3. In Propria Persona, abbreviated, “In Pro Per,” is Latin for “In (his or her) own person,” which in legal filings refers to one who files directly as either a petitioner or a respondent without an attorney.
  4. Nietzsche, Friedrich, “The Joyful Pursuit of Knowledge and Understanding” The Gay Science (1882) Section 343.
  5. Nietzsche, Friedrich, “Expeditions of an Untimely Man,” quoted by Grey, Eziikiill and Gold, Izenhaera. The Poet and The Painter: Vol 1: Miseries & Epiphanes (2014) Outskirts Press. ISBN-13: 9781478738718, p. 150.
  6. Neill L. Cooney (lecture at Cypress College April 12, 2012)
  7. Theodore Roethke. “The Waking,” lines 16-19.
  8. Waggoner, Robert. “Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self” (2008) Red Wheel/Weiser, ISBN 1609255399, p. 6.
  9. Rebecca Turner. “Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (The MILD Technique)” The World of Lucid Dreaming (n.d., accessed August 2, 2017) http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/mnemonic-induction-of-lucid-dreams.html.
  10. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “A Weeping Woman On a Windy Beach” Transpire (October 1, 2016, accessed August 2, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-weeping-woman-on-a-windy-beach/.
  11. Ibid.


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Being Trans, Senior and Homeless

When thinking about homelessness, most people don’t think of senior citizens. We presume that older adults have Social Security, pensions and cozy little homes that have been paid off for years. That’s often not the case for Transgender people, who have spent  years struggling with health care, and discrimination in the work force and housing.

There is a large and troubling number of elderly residents of our community who do indeed live in their cars, moving from place to place to avoid neighbor complaints. Others seek out alcoves and nooks where they can stay out of the weather. Still others seek refuge at local homeless shelters.

The toughest age bracket is age 55 to 62, when many older adults feel they are too old to compete for jobs yet still too young to qualify for Social Security, is added to the already burden of discrimination based on gender identity. And while age 55 may seem young, aging on the street takes a toll. According to numerous experts, the average life expectancy for un-sheltered homeless people is 64 years. According to National Health Care for the Homeless Council, homeless people over 50 have four times the mortality rate of younger homeless people because “weathering” of un-housed people can prematurely age them by 10 to 20 years, and if that sounds awful, keep in mind those are numbers that represent the general population. For trans and other LGBTQ, it’s a human tragedy.

According to an NTDS Report:

▪ Survey participants reported very high levels of postponing medical care when sick or injured due to
discrimination (28%) or inability to afford it (48%);
▪ Respondents faced significant hurdles to accessing health care, including:
• Refusal of care: 19% of our sample reported being refused care due to their transgender or
gender non-conforming status, with even higher numbers among people of color in the survey;
• Harassment and violence in medical settings: 28% of respondents were subjected to
harassment in medical settings and 2% were victims of violence in doctor’s offices;
• Lack of provider knowledge: 50% of the sample reported having to teach their medical
providers about transgender care;
▪ Despite the barriers, the majority of survey participants have accessed some form of transitionrelated
medical care; the majority reported wanting to have surgery but have not had any surgeries yet;
▪ If medical providers were aware of the patient’s transgender status, the likelihood of that person
experiencing discrimination increased;
▪ Respondents reported over four times the national average of HIV infection, 2.64% in our sample
compared to .6% in the general population, with rates for transgender women at 3.76%, and with those
who are unemployed (4.67%) or who have engaged in sex work (15.32%) even higher;
▪ Over a quarter of the respondents misused drugs or alcohol specifically to cope with the
discrimination they faced due to their gender identity or expression;
▪ A staggering 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general
population, with unemployment, low income, and sexual and physical assault raising the risk factors significantly.

One of the major factors delaying  medical treatment in our community is access to insurance, discrimination, medical professionals lacking education on trans issues, and according to this same study., in terms of preventive care, those without insurance reported delaying care due to inability to afford it much more frequently (88%) than those with private insurance (39%) or public insurance (44%). Failing to obtain preventive care is known to lead to poor long-term health outcomes.

A bipartisan group of 76 U.S. House members is calling on the White House to restore to a federal health survey for elders a question the Trump administration has struck out allowing them to identify as transgender.

In a letter dated July 21 and led by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), chair of the LGBT Aging Issues Task Force, lawmakers call on the White House Office of Management & Budget to reinstate the question in the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, or NSOAAP.

“We have to ensure we are meeting the needs of the most vulnerable among us,” Deutch said in a statement. “Study after study has shown that transgender older adults face greater social isolation, food insecurity and disparate health impacts. It is cruel to remove a previously included transgender-specific demographic question and, in essence, send a message to transgender seniors that their needs are not important.”

Earlier this year, the Administration on Community Living at the Department of Health & Human Services indicated it would eliminated from the NSOAAP questions allowing LGBT elders to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity. Amid pressure from LGBT rights supporters, HHS agreed to restore the sexual orientation, but kept out a question allowing elders to identify as transgender.

Fortunately, there are programs emerging to help combat the issue of isolation in the senior trans community. Groups such as Lavender Seniors and SAGE perform outreach to elder members of the transgender community and provide a safe and welcoming place for them to socialize and find support. The reach of these programs remains limited, though, and tends to be concentrated in more progressive large cities.

It is also important that we continue to speak out for our Trans seniors that have walked the paths, we find just a little more comfortable to walk today.


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