What’s it like being a trans man in Pakistan?

While gender recognition reform is on the cards in the UK, a historic trans rights bill has received approval in Pakistan.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017 will guarantee self-declaration of gender without the approval of a doctor or psychiatrist. Transgender people now possess the same rights as every other citizen under the Pakistani constitution.

Gendered Intelligence spoke to Pakistani activist and trans man Mani about the current developments in legal protection and what it’s like to be a trans man in Pakistan.

The media reported that you are the first trans man in Pakistan to legally change your identity card. You have made history! How was the process of changing your identity card?

Yes, I’m the first transgender man to legally change his identity card and the process was not very easy; sometimes it was so hard to deal with.

I’m sorry I can’t share the whole process because if it gets disclosed, people will start misusing it and then the authorities will be alerted and maybe start asking people to go through a more difficult process, which I don’t want.

At this point in time I’m in the process of changing another trans man’s identity card and have just changed one more gender marker for a trans man. I’m following a one at a time method so things will go smoothly, but you can’t imagine that even following this method we are still facing challenges.

Briefly, I will say that I challenged their policy and launched a case against them and after a long struggle I won and got my card in my preferred gender.

Khawaja sira* and trans women in Pakistan have been prominent in campaigning for –  and achieving – rights such as the ability to change legal gender (since 2010) and recognition of a third gender. Trans men are no so visible in the public eye. What is the situation for trans men in Pakistan?

So only khawaja sira identified persons got legal gender recognition after 2010 – not even trans women.

Yes, we have very low visibility of trans men in Pakistan because being born in a female body in country like Pakistan is not so easy. Families of trans men in Pakistan are overprotective towards us and that’s why we don’t have liberty to do something for our own selves. Trans men are scared to come out openly because of fear attached to society, but I’m trying hard to find more and more trans men, which is not an easy task.  I know few trans men and most of them are living with their families, while I also know very few trans men who are independent, but life is not very easy for the trans men who are living alone with a female identity.

(* Khawaja sira are Pakistan’s traditional ‘third gender’ community. They have been at the forefront of fighting for legal recognition. Under British colonialism, khawaja sira communities in South Asia were dehumanised and criminalised – the effects of which can be felt to this day. In the past decade, khawaja sira activists have won the the right to inherit property, be counted in the census and obtain ID cards that list them as third gender)

In December, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights approved Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017. What difference will the bill make to trans people in Pakistan?

So the Bill has been approved by the Senate and still needs to be approved by National Assembly so fingers crossed for it!

Once it gets passed, the situation will be totally different from the current situation. If it gets passed in its current form then trans people will not need any medical documents to have access to education, health etc, but it will take time to be implemented as it is.

(† At the time of our interview, the Bill had not yet been passed by the National Assembly)

What would you like trans people in the UK to know about being trans in Pakistan?

Of course I want everybody to know about the situation of trans people in Pakistan. Maybe I sound biased, but the issues and challenges faced by trans men are worse. I have explained some issues above, but the issues which are most challenging in my opinion are financial issues. Trans men don’t like doing a job which forces them to come to work in women’s clothes. Another thing is that families don’t allow them to go out and earn money, which affects their medical transition and it is affecting their mental health very badly.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

I’m looking for a more progressive society in 2018 and not only for khawaja sira and trans women people but for trans men too. I’m hoping that the Bill will bring good changes in society.

NB: This interview has been edited for clarity.

Photo credit: Faizan Fiaz

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