You may have come across clips of celebrities displaying a different take on ‘the clap’. These videos, released as part of a social media campaign, have brought to light our inherent transphobia into Pakistan’s national discourse by calling to simply, #ChangeTheClap. Celebrities that are endorsing the campaign include Osman Ali Butt, Ahmed Ali Butt, Mehwish Hayat, Ayesha Omar, Anoushey Ashraf and Asim Azher amongst others. They have all recorded and posted videos of themselves demonstrating a distinct clap, along with a message of peace and tolerance for the transgender community.
The clap in question, however, is a distinct strike of the palms often associated with transgenders. This is believed to be the way they instantly identify which community of transgenders they belong to. Some people also believe that it is the way the inherent femininity of the henna on their hands is slapped out of its intended feminineness. There are many ideas about how the clap originated but one thing is for certain; it has come to signify negativity and begging. That is also the reason why the well-known Indian transgender activist, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi discourages the use of the clap.
The Asia Pacific Transgender Network has previously partnered with different NGOs and agencies in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal to hold workshops and build awareness around the problems transgenders face in this region. They have now, in partnership with BBDO, launched the #ChangeTheClap campaign for World Human Rights day. Jamayal Tanveer, who’s heading the project at BBDO shared, “They wanted insight that could connect all transgenders over the subcontinent so we thought over it and decided we need to change the clap. It’s a sign of mockery but more than that it is a mindset. We want to campaign for a tiny change in motion from what it was (the clap) and can become”.
The campaign, that features famous trans model Kami Sid, has a powerful message. And Kami, who’s a success story in her own right, is the best person to deliver it. Besides social media awareness, the team is also working on equal opportunities for transgenders and is trying to partner with companies, lawmakers and HR to hash out possibilities to enable them further. “We’re trying to pass a bill for transgender rights because although the government has recognized them as the third gender, most of them don’t have ID cards because they don’t know their parents,” Jamayal shared. “We’re going to launch a protest in front of the parliament. Most of the protests around the world are either silent or violent and we don’t want ours to be either.”
While it’s admirable that people are recognizing a problem and working towards change, there are those who don’t agree with the campaign. Twitter raised the point that the campaign is demeaning to transgender individuals who either choose this profession on their own or are either forced into it and that they deserve respect, regardless of their profession. Jamayal is of the opinion that most hijras are poor because they are discriminated against. They are not gainfully employed and will resort to beg or extort for money and are given to sex work. He added, “We need to understand that they’re in that position because of us. Why would you put beggars on street – it’s because they didn’t have the same opportunities. It’s society that forces them to be there and it needs to be more cooperative – from the time they are born if their parents accepted them, people welcomed them and gave them equal opportunities in schools and let them use public transport without being harassed.”
Many would criticize the campaign as slactivism or hashtag activism but it is clearly an incredibly important way to galvanize supporters and create momentum that can eventually affect law. Change can never be as immediate as a repost, but that doesn’t render the repost worthless.