Imagine being disowned by your own family. Imagine being forced to live with strangers. Imagine being forced to beg on the streets for the rest of your life. Imagine being raped and sexually abused by the police officers who were supposed to ‘serve and protect’. Imagine being denied entry in the ‘honorable areas’ just because of your gender. Yes, this is exactly how the transgender community of Pakistan is living.
One of Pakistan’s sensitive most social issues comes when discussing the topic of transgenders. Dubbed as the third-gender, the Pakistani transgender community over the past few decades has seen inevitable deterrence and discrimination. Forced to live in inhumane conditions, and denied basic rights, we as a nation have failed them. This transgender from Pakistan seen in documentary footage summed up her feelings in a couple of lines. The interviewer asked her what would she want if fate were in her own hands, how would she set things differently in her world? And her reply shattered a million hearts, highlighting the inevitable tragedy people like her go through their entire lives. “If my fate were in my own hands… I could have been someone… if it was in my hands… I’d happy to be a dog so I could live with my mother.” The agony, the pain, the hopelessness in these few words of her perfectly sums up the miserable lives people like her lead.
Recently a name which has been appearing on our social media platforms – Julie Khan, is that of a transgender who decided to raise her voice about not only the bitter perspectives of her community but also the two-faced reality of the entire society. While growing up in Pakistan, Julie struggled with a sense of identity. Something was always gnawing away at her, never fully apparent. One day her boss at the fast-food restaurant where she worked told her to look for the transgender community. She was 19. Her coming out was a rude warning from a society that told her she didn’t belong, that she must find a home elsewhere.
Julie didn’t know what the word transgender meant until she was told that she could no longer live with her family. She had never met another transgender person and knew nothing about the trans community. Today, she’s a proud trans woman, fighting a battle no trans person has dared: pursuing a rape case through the courts.
Asserting her rights hasn’t been easy. The transgender community that embraced her when her own family disowned her feel she is taking an unnecessary risk that could affect them all, and are refusing to support her. “I am supposed to be okay after everything that happened because they tell me this is what I was made for. I was made to be abused. I refuse to accept that. I am a trans woman, I wasn’t made to be raped, abused, and ridiculed. I am human and I won’t rest until my rapist is in jail.” Sexual assault against transgender women has been widespread in our country, and many cases go unreported due to police involvement. The law has failed this community and so Julie decided to fight for her rights, and as expected, faced a lot of backlash and was recently arrested from her own home. On the 10th of August when Julie went to her courtyard to light a cigarette, a few uniformed officers along with some transgenders forcefully entered and beat her. The story does not end here. After physically assaulting Julie, she was arrested without investigation about her case, and thrown in Adiala Jail, with men. The transgender community, who is sadly not safe from all sorts of sexual abuse in broad daylight, was now thrown as prey for men to further exploit her, without any questions raised. Thankfully due to Julie’s popularity among the general public, many activists rose for her and pressurized the authorities for her release. For the first time, the general public stood for a fellow transgender, and Julie was released on the 18th of August.
The battle Julie openly fought is the one most of our transgenders silently counter throughout their lives. If the general public starts standing up and shielding people like Julie, maybe their lives can be made a bit better. What we can do, for our local transgender communities? Well for starters, act normal in their presence in public, do not step away from the place you see a trans citizen in, discourage others from isolating a trans person in social settings. Watch your words around a trans person and talk to them using pronouns they prefer. Discuss trans rights and Pakistani transgenders on your social media. In the twenty-first century, the masses have finally gained a wonderful activism tool in the form of social media that they can use sitting at home to help the trans community and educate themselves and others about it. Donate and volunteer at organizations like Wajood, Vision & Rozan that are working for the Pakistani transgender community. For a while let’s stop focusing on making our lives better and start thinking about making their lives worth something.