Among the Eunuchs
A Muslim Transgender Journey
A subtle, personal exploration of gender identity across Muslim cultures, from the West to South Asia.
From an early age, Leyla Jagiella knew that her life would be defined by two things: being Muslim and being trans. Struggling to negotiate these identities in her conservative, small German hometown, she travelled to India and Pakistan, where her life was changed by her time among third gender communities.
Known today as hijras in India and khwajasaras in Pakistan, these predominantly Muslim communities once held important political, social and spiritual positions. They were respected as agents of the supernatural, with powers to bless or curse, and often worked as eunuchs in the harems and palaces of the Muslim aristocracy. But under British colonialism the hijras were criminalised and persecuted, entrenching long-lasting taboos that these communities continue to fight against today.
Among the Eunuchs reveals a vast variety of interpretations of religion, gender and sexuality, illuminating how deeply culture informs our lifestyles and experiences. In a world where identity is an ideological battlefield, Jagiella complicates binaries and dogma with a rich and reflective analysis of gender across the world. Her fascinating journey speaks to all who draw from multiple cultural roots, have relations across borders, or find themselves juggling more than one identity.
Leyla Jagiella is a cultural anthropologist and scholar of religion, working on orthodoxy and heterodoxy in Islam and gender and sexuality in Muslim societies. As a Muslim trans woman, she has also been a community activist for several decades and works as a social worker with LGBTQI refugees in Germany.