The Third Gender (preview)

What is it like to be trans in Pakistan? This is a preview of their raw narrative generated by the voices of the community.

Despite being viewed by the West as one of the most conservative countries in the world, Pakistan has taken many progressive initiatives such as granting full rights to transgender citizens and issuing passports with a separate gender category (which the US does not even offer). However, little has been done to positively impact other aspects of their everyday lives. Trans people (sometimes referred to hijras or khwaja siras) remain one of Pakistan’s most marginalized citizens. Often portrayed as dancers, beggars, and prostitutes by the media, they are scarred with a fallacious perception that deceives their true identity.

In April this year, I met some of the most inspiring individuals from the trans-communities in Islamabad and Lahore. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mehlab, Jannat, Moon, Zehrish, Bijili, Badshiri, and many others who strive to defy misconceptions by promoting activism through health, education, and performing arts. Some, as part of the Khwaja Sira Society, an NGO dedicated to advancing social and health needs, are advocating for social justice, equity, and well-being. Their resilience and resistance have and will continue to empower other trans-women to raise their voice for a better future.

Their fight should not be alone. Trans people are not looking for pity from society – they themselves are capable and tenacious individuals. What they do need is society to stand with them, listen, and understand them. Regardless of what country you dwell in, I challenge you to ask yourself how you can be a better ally for their movement and support them in their struggle.

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