Adeela Hameed

Kashmir and the ‘T’ in LGBTQ+

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Kashmir – the valley of saints, our Pir Vear – has always been known for hospitality. Warmth and exuberance towards people – our own or from outside – is one of the most important qualities of a true Kashmiri. And we never give up on our guests, no matter what! Keep stuffing their plates with more food, showering them with almonds and candies, and keep blessing them every time they enter or leave our homes.

Not just special occasions but during normal visits from friends, Kashmiris are ready for combat – and with guards up – continue attacking the unsuspecting guests with all sorts of favours. The host family’s house is a battleground during these events. With youngsters scurrying towards neighbourhood stores to buy tea-time delicacies, elder females busy preparing exquisite cuisines in the kitchen, while males in tune with their families entertain guests until everything is ready. A traditional Kashmiri house turns into a hotplate. This is only a little reflection of how warm Kashmiris are in spite of being defeated and manhandled – by aggressive forces – since the pre-independence era. Yet Kashmir – in and of itself – is still complete, a closed sect, a whole different civilization.

It is only natural that a separate civilization has its own nature, its unique ideology. In stark contrast to most regions in India or abroad, Kashmir welcomes and respects the transgender community. They are highly regarded in the Kashmiri universe. The best example would be during matrimonies.

The manzimyor – middleman –is usually someone from this community. They have proper established professions as Kashmiri matchmakers. Nothing – and I stress – nothing can be done without their blessings and permission. Everything goes through them first; be it the meeting of families or gifts exchanged. Although the more intricate part of Nikah, the mehr – gift of money or property from the groom to the bride – is taken care of by the two families, however presence of manzimyor is still a must.

The rest of India or the world may still be debating on their rights but Kashmir has long forfeited this piece of legal hullabaloo: with the community being rightfully included, considered an important aspect, and placed on an eminent pedestal in Kashmiri marriages.

Hospitality is an instinct in Kashmir. To be intricate in details, perfect in preparation, and immaculate in execution of service is as important as a Kashmiri’s occupation. I am not exaggerating! People have mental breakdowns if their service is deficient or falls behind in welcoming esteemed guests, especially in case of their members-in-law. For this curious reason, I admit Kashmiris are obsessive to a fault. But to include people from the transgender community in overseeing important events  – like marriages – implies utmost respect garnered by this T in LGBTQ+ in Kashmir.

A lot has to be done for other elements of this whole set of LGBTQ+ around the globe. And being part of the global village, Kashmiris must also take care to include mutually empathetic alterations to our society regarding this entire community. Although understanding opinions and preferences of people – whether gays, lesbians or bisexuals – is difficult in a closed society like ours, however we did change our attitude towards transgenders through generations of inter/intra-personal conflict resolution, modifying our impressions about those who are different, and placing our trust in local orthodox beliefs. We can change now – as well – through more refined methods. Of awareness and respect for all creations of the Almighty – without being pejorative.

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