The Jogappas are one of the least known transgender communities in South India. They are “caught”, possessed, by the goddess Yellamma: as such, they are regarded as holy women, and their gender identity and expression reflects this. Jogappas occupy a respected, priestly position within society: people seek their blessings, and appease Yellamma through them. They are a directly link between society and the divine. However, owing to their identity and gender expression, they also transgress the binary norms of gender and sexuality held sacrosanct by societies everywhere in India. They face the paradox of being seen as “powerful and holy” as well as “strange and deviant”. Further, governmental oversight has left them in a vulnerable position.
HBS’ partner Aneka conducted a year-long research into the Jogappa community focusing on their identity, their relationship with family and society, their tradition, and concerns around livelihood, education, and health, among other subjects. Findings show that right from the onset of their lives, Jogappas face deep opposition and discrimination in many crucial aspects of their lives. With insecure housing and livelihood opportunities, Jogappas live very much in the now: that is, owing to everyday trials, there is little thought they can spare towards how they can approach the future. They have also been subjected to neglect on governmental and social forums, and do not have access to many entitlements they are due. With this book, we aim to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of this community in scholarship, as well as provide recommendations intended to influence policy and decision making with respect to the community in relevant government departments. We also hope to provide direction for those who are interested in conducting further research into this small and vibrant community.