A Pinki Pramanik in all of us

[Voices Against Violence] Gender expectations have always fallen short on boys not being strong or rough enough and girls not being dainty or soft enough.


[Voices Against Violence] Gender expectations have always been punishing about boys not being strong or rough enough and girls not being dainty or soft enough. 

I remember reading about gender identity disorder during my early days of studying Psychology in college. By then, the ‘problem’ of not being able to identify with your gender on crucial parameters wasn’t new to me or hard to relate. No one adopts the role of being a ‘gender bender’.  It just darts at you the moment you express your desire to play with dolls instead of the rough and tough tumble as a 6-year-old boy or discover that the cricket scene with older and younger boys is more fun than playing petty politics of ghar ghar with girls your age.

The curious case of Pinki Pramanik, says the media. Why curious? Because that’s how we understand (or would like to) the world in simplified categories of male or female, straight or gay, black or white. The concern isn’t as much whether a woman was raped or not as much as an Indian track athlete who won numerous medals in the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games actually being a man all along given how her feat had always been so exceptional for a woman.

Gender expectations have always fallen short on boys not being strong or rough enough and girls not being dainty or soft enough. My childhood and years of teenage are scarred with multiple memories of “failing” as a girl when I didn’t take special interest in the kitchen or knitting, didn’t walk or sit with the manners of a society debutante, played defendant in the school basketball team and didn’t have a boyfriend at 16. Post adulthood, I believed to have surpassed these petty issues of misunderstanding and arrived as a woman as I grew a fondness for sale season shopping and wore red lipstick. But I realized my luck was still running hard when my dance instructor exclaimed, “You move like a boy!” So fucking what?

Dance, like many other creative, artistic and bodily expressions, is a place where rigid societal concepts like gender should disappear into a black hole. Casey Legler, an American artist in New York, has come into popular limelight for posing as a male model for Ford in commercial advertisements. In an interview to Time magazine, she says, “What I wish is that we all get to be exactly who we are and sometimes that’s complicated. We have very specific ways of identifying ourselves as man or woman and I think sometimes those can be limiting”. Closer home, celebrity hair stylist of Mad-O-Wot, Sapna Bhavnani has been seen to be experimenting with concepts of gender and sexuality with fluidity in her fashion sense without a care for a nod of approval or shocked senses. But is liberation from gender, as we know it, only limited to the world of art and high fashion?

Gender idiosyncrasies might seem like a very petty discussion and topic to mull over but clearly the world could use a kick in its pants, skirt whatever. If we could imagine that gender anomalies in hormones and genitals are more common than is revealed, we wouldn’t have stripped and taped Pinki the way we did, our boys wouldn’t be letching at every passing girl and women won’t think all men are assholes and bastards.  Only if we knew a little more about the third gender, we wouldn’t be so afraid of their curses and prejudiced of their backgrounds and the rate of HIV/AIDS wouldn’t soar higher primarily through unprotected sex, especially among married men who have sex with men but are obviously not ‘gay’ like Dostana. Only if we allowed ourselves more freedom from these expectations that serve no evolutionary progression (even if some basis), would there be more freedom in choosing vocations and the sex ratio wouldn’t be so skewed in North India and our engineering colleges.

Sapna Bhavnani has always experimented with concepts of gender and sexuality in a her work, whether it was art, fashion, photography or film making (Pic: Yakub Merchant)

Police officials harassed Pinki through gender tests in shady clinics and made MMS clips of it (and how is this legal?) and journalists drilled holes into the backstory of the accused, who claims Pinki is in fact Bluey (couldn’t help but crack this bad one). The human rights violation here is much too apparent and shameful for a country already blacklisted consecutively twice by Trust Law as one of the most dangerous places for women to live in. It is amusing to see the police work overtime to ambitiously take down a world-class Indian athlete than get to the piles of rape, street harassment and molestation cases pending on their desks.

What lengths are we willing to go to decide between the colour blue and pink? That is, what lengths to satisfy this curiosity and “fix the disjointed” reality? It is likely that Pinki has always had to live with the confusion and perhaps, shame, of her intersex features and biologically abnormal hormones. But charging her with rape only because of the presence of male testis (yet to be even determined if capable of rape) and without any proper investigation of the credibility of the alleged victim is pure outlandish. Even in the event that she has committed the crime, does it justify the trauma she has been put through any more than the scores of rapists who walk today?

The only two characters I know that fit into the idealistic frames of male and female are Barbie and Ken. Among real people, we’re all Pinki Pramaniks in one respect or another, who humanly can’t fit into the black and white notions of gender profiles and will fail on one or too many counts of not being masculine or feminine enough.

As Casey Legler puts it, “It would be such a lovely place if we didn’t judge or jump to conclusions if someone wants to wear a dress or someone wants to wear pants”.

This post is a part of ‘Voices Against Violence’ series to observe the international movement of 16 days of activism against gender based violence. November 25th is celebrated as the international day of the elimination of violence against women.

Have something to say against gender based violence or a personal story to share? Send them to editor@thealternative.in. 

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Makepeace is a freelance writer and a make believe selfie model. She formerly served as a Community Editor at The Alternative and now works with an international non profit in Bangalore. The only kind of marathons she loves are the ones on the idiot box. Follow her at @makeysitlhou more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Makepeace is a freelance writer and a make believe selfie model. She formerly served as a Community Editor at The Alternative and now works with an international non profit in Bangalore. The only kind of marathons she loves are the ones on the idiot box. Follow her at @makeysitlhou more

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  • Aditi

    I agree with you, we do tend to fit people into definite categories, identities and roles without even giving them a chance to explore their spaces and the worst part is, it happens all the time, every social act we engage in, every statement we make, choices we express, clothes, activities we pursue. children need to be given the full freedom to explore the personal spaces from the very beginning so that they don’t grow up drawing lines all the time .