Living a Gender Non-conforming Life in Pakistan
Today’s issue of Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper profiles the lives of 6 people living in Rawalpindi, the garrison town neighboring the capital, Islamabad. Their self-identities range from cross-dresser to transgendered. Each of them courageously shares personal perspectives on living a gender non-conforming life in Pakistan. The short article is accompanied by striking photos capturing moments in their every day lives along with side by side photos documenting their often “side by side” identities.
Despite the social-conservatism in much of Pakistani society, there have been recent breakthroughs for the trans community. A 2011 Supreme Court ruling allows trans people to get national identity cards recognizing them as neither male nor female and allowing them to vote. Trans politicians also have run for office. Sanam Faqeer, a trans candidate who ran for office in the 2013 general election expressed her identity as a political advantage: “People don’t believe we can be corrupt because we don’t have children and families, we don’t need to collect wealth and build villas for our next generations by stealing people’s money as other politicians do.”
Still, living an openly gender non-conforming life in Pakistan can have its challenges. “I am a very shy man. Eyes always follow me when I walk out of the apartment that I share with a few friends who share the same job like mine (as) dancers,” says Bakhtawar, a tailor living in Rawalpindi, finding strength in community, “Being with them is like being with a family. When I am surrounded by them, I feel safe, respected and empowered.”
Posted: January 22nd, 2015