Queerly Beloved


Stigmatised for being different


Transgenders in South Asia are referred to as Khwaja Siras, Hijras or Khusras. By biological means a transgender takes on female identity choosing to publicly dress and behave like women.

The transgender population has a long history in the subcontinent serving as the caretakers of Mughal heirs and making significant contributions to art, music and poetry. Ancient legends has it that khwaja sira’s prayers and curse (bud’dua) are answered by God bestowing them with unique ability to bring others good fortune and fertility. Despite their once respectable position in society their status has significantly deteriorated over these years forcing many into begging or prostitution. A myth seems to have formed that they cannot do any work except for sing and dance.


According to some researches approximately one out of 50 children are identified with a transgender tendency/ potential in Pakistan. Or we can say that, about 2 per cent population of Pakistan is affected by transgenderism. This translates into an approximated 5 million transgenders living in Pakistan. However, today it is almost impossible for transgender people to get married, find decent jobs or even mix up in Pakistani society, where gay marriage is punishable by life imprisonment, and no “third gender” is documented on official identity cards.


Transgender people are known in Arabic language as mukhannathun. As they were considered harmless to work around women, they had easy access to the kings’ and emirs’ palatial harems. They particularly served the queens and princesses, because they had the extra advantage of being tall with a long reach as we find numerous such situations when we read about the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. During the earliest times of Islam, such people had rights and there are some accounts that state that Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) wife Umme Salema had allowed a transgender called Hidh, in her hujira.


Due to the controversies that surround such people and the typical mind-sets of our society, transgender rights in Pakistan are not even discussed in educated, decent circles. Transgender people, in almost all parts of the country, often face massive rejections.

First of all, when transgender children are identified, most families become hostile towards them. Strict threats are given to them to change their attitude and most children are rejected by their loved ones or abandoned. They have to face un-acceptance from the moment they are born. They are avoided by the society, and sometimes even murdered. Considered as a source of shame, no one wants any association with these people. A 23-year-old Alisha was shot down in May this year in Peshawar and was deprived of treatment when hospital workers refused to provide medical aid, which later led to her death. This incident brought the attention of many Pakistanis to the issue of atrocities being committed towards these innocent people. Much video footage about violence on the transgender people has been circling around social media in Pakistan. Latest one coming from Sialkot which shows a man thrashing a transgender with a belt on bare buttocks went viral and this is not the first time that this community has been harassed, gang-raped or attacked. Gangs that molest transgenders for extortion money are present in almost every city of Pakistan and simply enjoy torturing members of community as a matter of fun.


Most of these individuals never get a chance to get education in a regular school due to discrimination and disgusting attitude of their fellow citizens. Eventually, these people have no other option, but to make their living by singing and dancing on the road or in private parties. Furthermore, transgender people are usually not encouraged to live amongst regular neighbourhoods. They inevitably establish their own colonies outside the regular communities.

Lately, it seems that the entertainment industry and social media has finally realised its influence and responsibility. Breaking free from the usual masala scripts, we have now improved productions highlighting social issues. Recently a popular drama serial deals with the tough reality and a taboo topic; the third gender and the “dilemma” of a respectable family where such a child is born.

Pakistani transgender activist Kami Sid is exploring the fashion industry. She/he recently did a sensational photo session, which took the social media by storm, and debuted as the country’s first transgender model, breaking all stereotypes and barriers.

Possible gender identities are numerous. Usually the term transgender is used to describe people who do not identify with conventional male and female gender roles. This description is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of possible identities including, Hijra, Khwaja Sira, Butch, Cross-dressers, and Transvestites. It is the duty of the echelons of Pakistani society to recognize their rights as equal citizens of Pakistan; provide medical care to them as they are usually denied public healthcare, work towards enabling entrepreneurship and provide economic opportunities for transgender people who are, left out of the mainstream economy. Their stories and experiences should not be erased from our cultural experiences, as they are our legacy and heritage. We can only hope to make this country a safe haven for each and every citizen irrespective of caste, creed, religion and sex.