Tuesday May 15, 2018
Growing up, it was difficult to ignore. Something wasn’t right. I was not normal. If everyone else around me was the day, I was night, the proverbial night; darkness engulfed me.
The normal kids could dream. They could dream to one day build a house, to start a business, to secure a job. I, and others like me, could not. Life for transgender people in Pakistan is like digging a well, every day, to find a little bit of water to drink, enough to keep us alive.
On May 9, Pakistan passed a landmark bill, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.
Under the legislation, we can now choose our own gender on official documents — IDs, passports, driver’s license, etc. The bill also prohibits the public from discriminating against us in schools, hospitals, and workplaces. We can now vote freely and run for office. Also, we can inherit property.
In the past few days, I have heard people say that such a progressive law has never been passed anywhere in the world. But for me personally, it is a bittersweet moment. It is like chaand raat, the one day we get carried away with the excitement of the event. But by the end of it, we look around us and realize we do not have enough money to celebrate Eid.
If the kitchen is empty, how cheerful can the house be?
In December 2009, after the Supreme Court passed a verdict directing the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to issue us identity cards that identified us as “khawaja-siras,” we danced in jubilation outside the press clubs of the country. We distributed sweets.
But then nothing much changed.
Most of us are still jobless. In fact, in the past few years, more and more members of our minority community are being targeted and killed. Have any of the murderers been punished? Even the population census greatly underestimated our numbers.
We thank the Parliament, but not much has been altered on the ground. We are still the outsiders.
But there are small mercies. One immediate change will be, I hope, that the next time we go to the police station we will not be asked to explain whether we suffered a male assault or a female assault. Such indignities will hopefully be in the past now.
We, the transgender, pay taxes, work hard, and are good citizens of this country. We need representation in the parliament. There need to be reserved seats allocated for us too.
After the bill was passed this month, we expected opposition. So we asked Raza Rabbani for his time. He gave us ten minutes. We were grateful. But when we began talking, the meeting extended to two hours. His legal guidance was tremendously helpful.
Next, we sat with religious scholars to compile Quranic verses and Hadiths supportive of our type. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) then requested that we sent the information to them, which we did.
Maybe our long night is finally ending, or maybe it is still too dark to tell.
Rana is a transgender activist and the president of the Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA).
Note: The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geo News or the Jang Group.