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Understanding the transgender community: the need to move beyond fixed mindsets

A few days back, lifestyle pages and websites were raving about the first transwoman model in the country, and while it was lauded by many, there were also posters against the community seen at a popular market in Karachi

Though some have started to acknowledge members of the transgender community as not mere beggars or sex workers, there are many who are yet to know that Bindya Rana had contested the elections or Kami Sid has become the first transgender model.

Binya and Kami participated in a discussion titled ‘Transgender Community: Identity and Development’ organised on Wednesday to explain the issues faced by the community.

“I have never considered myself a ‘taboo’; rather, I’ve always owned my personality and wanted to prove that we could also be a part of society as much as everyone else,” started off Kami, a popular transgender activist, as she spoke about how she decided to become a model.

“There are many derogatory words too but I have self-stigmatised myself so I can’t care less about what people call me but also understand that there would be many who feel deeply offended and we need to cater to them as well,” she added.

Speaking about the oldest criticism put forward against the transgender community about their means of sustenance, Kami said that “dubious” means were inevitable: “We all are accompanied by hunger so if we won’t be employed, we will turn to other options dubbed unsophisticated by others.”

She added that it took her seven years to come to terms with her identity and felt that even today there would be people who would not even acknowledge her existence owing to their conditioning.

Bindya said members of the transgender community did not belong in a zoo and not had to be resettled somewhere else. “Before Partition, we had an inclusive society but now people look down upon us as if we were a plague,” she added.

Pushing Bindya’s point further, Kami added that it was high time we moved on from draconian laws set by the British. “After the fall of Mughals, the Colonials set laws which should have been left when they did so. While the western society progressed, we adhered to their word and kept on oppressing our communities,” she added.

Speaking about policemen, Bindya said they needed to be trained on how to deal with cases of rape and violence: “Many a time, the constable asks us in an apathetic tone ‘so what brings you here?’ and that can be very demeaning for us because the violence goes unreported.”

When the court was about to pass a law which would have made a medical check-up compulsory for members of the transgender community, Bindya recalled that she had fought then too: “I told them that if Nadra needed such an examination and if there was a law passed for this, it should be applied to both men and women and not only our community members.”

Bindya said the members of the community paid their taxes and so had the right to question those above us.

“If the State fails to provide better facilities to us then it’s not my fault; the State is subservient to us and not the other way round,” she added. She also spoke about her election campaign as to how her nomination papers were rejected because there was no option for her gender, and she was mocked for it when the court was listening to her appeal.

Given that many people are still unsure about the definition of transgender, Kami did not hesitate in calling out anyone who used confusion to create hurdles for the community: “There are many terms used for people like us but I only want to know why we can’t be accepted as humans first? It’s not like we are extraterrestrials.”

The News