April 10, 2007 / 7:46 AM / 11 years ago

British transsexual causes stir at Indian temple

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - A British transsexual has angered local eunuchs at a Hindu temple in north India because she monopolised the donations given by devotees seeking the eunuchs’ blessing, media reports said.

Pamela, who was born Stephen Louis according to newspaper reports, flew to India in March after she learnt of a temple dedicated to Bahuchara Mata, the patron goddess of eunuchs.

She said she was tired of being an object of ridicule in Britain, and was attracted to India by the status that eunuchs and transsexuals sometimes enjoy, the Indian Express reported.

Dressed in a sari and with her forehead marked with a bindi, she has attracted crowds of curious devotees at the temple in Becharaji, a town in Gujarat state.

She accepts donations -- anything from 1 to 500 rupees (1 pence to 6 pounds) -- in return for a blessing.

“Their faith is touching, it brings me love and joy,” the Express quoted the 32-year-old as saying.

Some local eunuchs -- known in India as “hijras” -- resent her for cutting into their earnings, and in one incident angrily rounded on her, disputing her transsexual status, according to the Indo-Asian News Service.

But others have befriended her, inviting her to visit hijra communities elsewhere in India.

As in much of the world, transsexuals in India often do not fit easily into society, and must put up with harassment and a legal system that criminalises homosexual acts.

But widespread superstitions have also accorded them a certain amount of fearful respect, while a handful have been elected to public office.

Singing and dancing bands of sari-clad hijras will often appear, invited or otherwise, at weddings and at the blessing ceremonies of newborn babies.

Some people believe they can bestow good fortune or, if the donations given are not big enough, curse people with bad luck.

Pamela, who is being accommodated by temple officials, has no plans to return to Britain just yet.

“I do miss my boyfriend ... but on the whole I was never happier in my life,” she was quoted as saying.

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