How many of us are fully aware of the struggles of the transgender population?
ByMahreen Nazar | August 2022
Imagine for a moment that your child is born with Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Think about their whole life, the trauma and the future. Would you be able to support them and provide them a safe space like every other child? Can they expect to live normal lives with the respect they deserve? Would they spend their entire lives seeking validation from society? Does the thought give you goose bumps and scare you to the core?
In theory, Pakistan’s Parliament passed Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in 2018 to protect the rights of transgender and give them a legal identity. However, its implementation still lacks acceptance because only a law cannot disassemble years of stigma and prejudice. This is exactly why transphobia needs to be addressed and fought. The battle is not just for their rights but also for the acceptance of more than just sexual orientation. In Pakistan, a population of 10,418 has been identified as transgender. We know how incorrect this figure is and shows how helpless the community is. If we do not even know the ratio, how can we even contribute towards the betterment of transgender people?
The unacceptability and uneasiness that we have with Gender Dysphoria is uncalled for. Words like “chikna, chakka, maal” are just a part of daily life. They grow up with judgemental eyes around them, starting from their own families mostly. They are disrespected, disowned and dishonoured at every point of their life. We are uneasy around them when they come to us and beg at traffic signals. We feel uncomfortable when we see their dances with our family members, but have we thought what options have we left for them other than being beggars, dancers and sex slaves?
Many of us would point out now that they have an identity, they get their CNICs, so they can move and work freely. But deep inside we all know that the change needs to come from within and we are not there yet. They are still victims of rape, forced marriages and sexual abuse.
How many of us are fully aware of the struggles, of transgender or even their basic anatomy? Do we know how difficult it is for them to rent a house? Do we ever sit with our children and give them the awareness or teach them to respect diversity. Why aren’t we ready to contribute towards their education, grooming or even basic necessities like safety, food and shelter?
Can a transwoman walk alone at night without the fear of getting bullied or raped? A transgender cannot even walk alone in the day without catcalling and harassment. We don’t want to see them dancing and begging on the streets but we are not ready to provide them with alternatives either.
What we need to do is change our perspective towards the transgender community. Maybe the transwoman that you saw at the signal the other day begging to make a living is also a great painter; maybe the transwoman who came to your home to dance for an event has a great passion for history. Are we ready to take an initiative to provide them a path towards a respectful career or we just want to criticize and make fun of them? It is strange that almost everyone knows about their problems but still their voices are unheard. They are still trying to seek validation and it is heart wrenching.
Many people from the transgender community are making a notable progress in different spectrums and one is thrilled to see their progress. Today I am proud of Nisha Rao, who is the first transgender lawyer, Sara Gill, the first transgender doctor, Aisha Mughal who represented Pakistan at the United Nations as part of the official delegation and Alina Khan, the first transgender to win a Cannes Film Festival award for Pakistan. But that’s not enough; we need more of them and each should have a proud story to tell. Every transwoman and man should be celebrated and encouraged. We need to learn to coexist with them.
Next time when you see someone harassing them, raise a voice. When someone uses disrespectful words or jokes about them, speak up. They are just like us or maybe even better as their hearts are pure and their eyes honest. Take some time out and listen to their stories as each one has faced the same circumstances at some point in their lives. They face all forms of abuse, ranging from exclusion from society to brutal murders and rapes. Feel their pain and it might send chills down your spine.
We need to shift focus from highlighting the issue, to contributing towards change. Let us befriend them and try to be kind towards their community. Let us fund their NGOs and work together to make our society gender-inclusive. Let us demand security for the transgender community and request the government to develop and implement policies and legislation to criminalize offences, committed against the transgender people.
“Transgender people cannot prosper unless society accepts and respects them.”
Alina Khan talks about the hurdles in the life of a transgender person in this interview.
What were you doing before your acting career?
Since childhood I was ridiculed for being different. My parents wanted me to act like a normal boy but they never realized that these things were not in my control. I was disrespected and people made fun of me at every point of life. People always bullied me by calling me chakka, khusra, etc.
I always wanted to be a dancer as I loved dancing as a child. Soon after I faced rejection from society and family, I started living alone. Renting a house as a transgender was a struggle for me. Then my friend introduced me to Neeli Rana, who became my mentor and guided me. I started my career as a dancer. I used to dance at functions to make a living.
What’s the difference that you feel in the society’s acceptance towards you after becoming an actress and winning a Cannes award for your film, ‘Joyland’?
After Joyland, I got validation from society. Success changes everything. My family accepted me after 10 years of struggle and I get more support from them now. The society that I live in also started respecting me. Life changes for a transgender when they are renowned.
How do you plan to change the narrative for transgender now that you are heard?
I will represent the transgender community proudly and will stand up against the murders and rapes of our community. I want to do so much for society but I cannot do anything unless we are accepted as equal individuals. We got rights recently (in 2018) but that is not enough.
As an actress I will try to be more vocal through all media platforms. With that I will put all my efforts to open opportunities for more transgender people.
When Joyland is released in Pakistan, how will it impact society?
The film will be released soon in Pakistan. It will change the narrative for transgender people and raise more awareness for them. My character Beeba is depicting a very different story.
How can your fans contribute towards the betterment of the transgender community?
It makes me very happy that I have fans and they appreciate me. I request them to raise their voice for us. I would advise the transgender community to showcase their talents and never give up. The struggle will be hard but there is no easy way.
I want to request the society to treat us equally and not judge us on the basis of our gender. Ads and messages should be created for awareness about the rights of the transgender community.
How about your future career and personal life?
I will continue my career as an actress and model and keep on working towards the betterment of the transgender community. I hope to do more respectable work in the future.
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