Among the Eunuchs
A Muslim Transgender Journey
A courageously personal exploration of gender identity across Muslim cultures, from the West to South Asia.
From an early age, Leyla Jagiella knew that she would be defined by two things: being Muslim and being trans. Struggling to negotiate these identities in her conservative, small hometown, she travelled to India and Pakistan, where her life was changed by her time among third-gender communities.
Known as hijras in India, khwajasaras in Pakistan, these marginal communities have traditionally been politically and culturally important, respected for their supernatural powers to bless or curse, and often serving as eunuchs in Mughal India’s palaces. But under British colonialism, the hijras were criminalised and persecuted, entrenching taboos they still battle today.
Among the Eunuchs reveals vastly varied interpretations of religion, gender and sexuality, illuminating how deeply culture informs our experiences. As identity becomes an ideological battlefield, Jagiella complicates binaries and dogma with her rich personal reflections. Her fascinating journey speaks to all who find themselves juggling different kinds of belonging.
‘An amazing, intricately detailed and personal history of the life of hijras and the modern-day trans community. From the glory of royal courts to the loss of respect and a fight for survival, this is a powerfully written exploration of sexuality, gender, Islam and South Asian culture.’ — Madian Al Jazerah, author of Are You This? Or Are You This?
‘A brave and compelling account of the author’s transnational journey, interrogating questions of gender, faith, belonging and their complex intersections. It provides a fascinating lens through which to explore the politics of difference, gendered and otherwise, during these polarising times.’ — Gayatri Reddy, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Gender & Women’s Studies, University of Illinois Chicago
‘Brimming with critical insight, this is a rich account of transfeminine experience, exploring political questions of faith, gender, race, sexuality and belonging, and highlighting how personal and social history enmesh. An important and timely intervention.’ — Avtar Brah MBE, Professor Emerita of Sociology, Birkbeck, University of London
‘A compelling narrative of transition, moving from rural Germany to South Asia, and located within a rich trajectory of trans folk in Islamic societies. Jagiella interweaves personal and political challenges, arguing for sexual and gender liberation across the world.’ — Shahnaz Khan, Professor Emerita of Women and Gender Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, and author of Transnational Feminism and the Moral Regulation of Pakistani Women
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.