MADURAI: Androgynous, epicene, neutrois, retransitioner, transfeminine, transmasculine, cross-dressers…the list is long. For those wondering what these terms mean, the answer is these are genders, according to M Gopi Shankar, a student of American College in Madurai.
"What we know as genders are male, female and transgender. But there are more than 25 other genders biologically identified and accepted through recent medical research worldwide," says Shankar
"But not many, even among medical fraternity are aware of the existence of so many genders," adds Shankar, who is also the founder of Srishti, a student gender queer group.
For instance, only transwomen - male to female - are considered transgender totally ignoring the existence of transmen - female to male, he says.
It was this lack of awareness that prompted the 22-year-old to pen a book in English as well as Tamil on the gender variants.
The book has been completed and is slated for release next month. Even before the book is to be released, it is being translated in French, German and Spanish.
Shankar claims such a book has not been written anywhere in the world yet. In the book, he has coined Tamil names for the different gender identifications.
After English, Tamil is the only language that has been given names for all the genders identified so far, according to Shankar.
"The book is a scientific, sociological, anthropological, psycho analytical, religious, philosophical and political take on gender. There is scattered information on these genders variants, but no authoritative book. I have stratified and labelled each of the genders," the young writer says.
The yet to be named book also interprets references to alternative genders in Hindu mythology, the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible.
"Indian culture is abundant with legends and mythologies where heroes and heroines have chosen various genders. Ironically, today the western nations are progressive in researching and educating about gender and sexuality expressions, while we, despite our rich cultural heritage of respecting and accepting gender variations, are lagging behind and even lacking that sensitivity," says the American College student.
The writer has spent more than one-and-a-half years researching, gathering data, poring though religious texts, visiting temples and meeting people of various genders and experts in the field.
"I travelled across rural Tamil Nadu, Kolkata, Kerala, Karnataka and to the UK," he says.
In addition to gender, the book also talks about various types of sexuality.
"Besides homosexuals, heterosexuals and bisexuals, there are 15 types of sexual orientations like translesbians and transgays," says Shankar.