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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Travelling While Trans: Jamie shares his story

The Summer holiday season has got into full swing  and our annual camping trips are coming up fast. We’ve been thinking about the potential challenges of travelling as a trans or gender variant person, inspired by our short survey about trans and gender variant people’s experience of using airports in the UK. We’ve had some insightful responses. 

Below Gendered Intelligence’s Communications Officer Jamie shares his recent experience of flying through an airport in the US. 

In June, I travelled to the US to attend Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. After a short trip to New York, my partner and I flew back to London through JFK.

You might not be aware that all passengers who travel through airports in the US are obliged to undergo a fully body scan as a security check. In times of increased surveillance at airports, travellers from marginalised communities, including trans people, have reported facing an uncomfortable degree of scrutiny while flying.

There is no reason that anyone should find the experience of a full body scanner comfortable, but for trans and intersex people there can be added difficulties. The scanner is calibrated to recognise “female” or “male” bodies. Any body parts that cannot be mapped on to those figures show up as anomalies on the security system.

While you stand inside the machine with your hands above your head, an image of your body is checked by security personnel.  Depending on the system in use, this image is either an accurate representation of your naked body, or a cartoon-like figure.

If an anomaly is detected, the passenger is then subjected to an additional security procedure – which generally means a pat down and a hand swab to check for explosive material.

I had travelled through airports in the US a few times before and gritted my teeth through several scans – for some reason, my body had never registered as an “anomaly”. This time, I wasn’t so lucky. Once I exited the body scanner, a security officer gestured to me to step to the side, instead of passing through to collect my hand luggage.

The security officer proceeded to give me a pat down. As he passed his hands over my chest, a look of surprise registered on his face: “What is that?”. I haven’t yet had top surgery.

“I’m transgender”.  The officer seemed mildly confused. I told him that I was “born female”.  These aren’t the words I would ideally use to describe my situation, but I wanted to avoid further confusion.  It worked – the penny dropped. The officer smiled sheepishly as he swabbed my hands.  He turned out to be kind, and almost puzzled that I had got myself into this position, as if I could have made the situation easier for myself.

Unfortunately, airlines do not provide you with a guide to being “trans at the airport” to navigate the current system.  Travellers who do not match conventional expectations of gender have to rely on airport staff to have sufficient knowledge and act sensitively in response to it.  As the #TravellingWhileTrans (or #TravelingWhileTrans) hashtag attests, many airports are spectacularly far off of the mark.

I found my experience at JFK embarrassing at worst.  If I was more vulnerable, or was treated in a less respectful way by the security offer, it could have been traumatic. We can’t be expected to depend on the benevolence of individual security staff or having had a particular type of surgery in order to feel safe.

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Jamie, GI’s Communications Officer

 

 


 

Gendered Intelligence is planning to take 70 young trans people camping this August. It’s a massive undertaking by our team, but we know that the camping trip has a huge impact on the young people who take part. 

To make the two camping trips happen, we have to raise £12,000 by the 12th of August.We need your support. We’re over halfway there, but there’s still a steep climb until we reach our target. 

Quote by Alex, 16