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Queer gender binary
Posted:Feb 22, 2017
 
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There is fear and speculation about the contents of the pending transgender rights bill that may bring in a new kind of rigidity about who is transgender and who is not. But can hard and fast rules determine gender identity? Here's how difficult it is to pin it down. Let us listen to some traditional Kirtans that were once exquisitely sung by Radharani Debi. These can still be heard on Hindusthan Record CDs. Radha and Krishna were indivisible. One was incomplete without the other - he like the monsoon clouds, and she, brilliant as the lightning, in his dark embrace. Yet they often queered the male-female binary, and playfully donned each other's clothes.
 
Krishna once disguised himself as a " bideshini" or a foreign woman, who could sing without instrumental accompaniment, to mollify his angry mistress. Miniatures apart, there is a Sunayani Debi painting depicting a cross-dressed Krishna. Ustad Barkat Ali Khan has immortalized such gender defiance in his sensuous "Tum Radhe bano Shyam". And this was the same Supreme Being, who in his childhood, used to effortlessly demolish monsters, and who, as Vishnu, had turned into the enchantress Mohini to snatch amrita or ambrosia from a demon's clutches. The gods could switch their sex with the adroitness of quick-change artists.
 
As to Radha, she desires to give up her life in order to be reborn as Krishna's boon companion, Subal, but never as a woman again, for a woman's life is too painful. On the other hand, if she is Krishna's playmate she would be able to enjoy his company all the time. In all these beautiful Kirtans, gender identity is never sacrosanct. It keeps changing like the moods of the protagonists.
 
Read more at: https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170223/jsp/opinion/story_137163.jsp#.WK5UcBJ97e0
 

The Telegraph, February 23, 2017

 
 
 
 
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