In the documentary "That's Okay," a biological man in women's clothes wanders the streets of Pune, India, begging for money and facing multiple levels of rejection.
The documentary was presented Monday in one of the first events of the controversial UT "Sex Week." Produced by Brianna Rader, the co-founder of "Sex Week" and a junior in College Scholars, "That's Okay" offers insight into the foreign world of transgender populations in India.
"I was not aware that the LGBT community is similar, at least in Rader's perspective, to the LGBT community here," Elizabeth Stanfield, a freshman in anthropology and geology, said. "Also, talking about the differences and how it interacts with the caste system, which we do not have here ... it was surprising to see that in some ways it's similar in struggles, but the unique differences in their culture maybe emphasize (the issues) more."
Hijras are defined as third gender individuals that are biologically male but have a feminine gender identity. The film follows a small group of hijras who have come from a myriad of environments and now live together as a new family. Their tales of abuse, society's intolerant system, sex work and strained familial relationships serve as the main themes throughout the documentary.
Rader filmed the work during her four-month long trip to South India last semester. She described how the hijras typically identify themselves as transgender (TG) around puberty and more often than not are forced out of their home and caste system. This results in these hijras adopting their own family structures within the supportive community that lives in the same area.
The levels of discrimination against the hijras followed them throughout their lives, affecting their success in school and depriving them of all opportunity. They are barred from having a decent job, causing most to stoop to begging and carrying out sexual work in order to support themselves and to be turned away for the most basic of needs such as medical treatment.
For Niana Malvea, a junior in language and world business, Spanish and global studies who studied abroad in Asia, the film was a continuation of her understanding of the culture. While Malvea was abroad in India, she had been exposed to the differences in sexuality in Indian culture but did not have the opportunity to learn of its extent. Her experiences and knowledge of India allowed her to give insight to the other students at the viewing on the different levels of diversity: religious, cultural, lingual and sexual. She said that while parts of the culture support diversity and would be accepting of hijras, there are parts that crush it.
Stanfield, who has not yet studied abroad at UT, found the look into another culture's definition of sexuality interesting.
“That they have ‘he,’ ‘she’ and a gender neutral noun says a lot about the culture, that they define that distinction,” Stanfield said.
"Sex Week" continues through Friday, and more information can be found online at sexweekut.org.