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Pakistan, a culturally, religiously, historically male dominant, and a patriarchal country has just come to identify the third gender – transgender – officially by the state. We are now one of the only eleven states that have another option for gender choice on the national identity card.
Social right groups and activist communities are also coming up with stronger and bolder voices and initiatives to acquire social justice, education, healthcare, employment opportunities, and equal rights as any male or female citizen of the country. We are still; however, a long way separated from achieving much of what we have set out to accomplish.
‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term we use for the non-stereotypical male and female sexes. It includes, but is not limited to, transvestites, transsexuals, gender, butch, femme, hijra, Khwaja sera, trans feminine, or transmasculine. The limited knowledge about their life and our sketchy insight of the nuances, struggles, and hindrances they suffer through every day for basic survival in our busy metropolis is a major obstacle in changing the way people perceive them and what we, as a society, can do for them.
As such, the first and most crucial step are to change the mindset. To not only consider, but, also, believe them to be our equals. To not only protect them from taunts and jeering, relentless discrimination and humiliation but do over the society that they no longer need our protection.
Activist groups such as TransAction and Gender Interactive Alliance are persistently working towards informing people of the plight of their communities, but a much greater support is needed for the society at large. We have achieved voting rights and some levels of acceptance in various educational and vocational sectors, but the vast majority of schools, colleges, companies and organizations still discriminate against them or perhaps feel too ashamed of hiring beyond their conventional standards.
These ‘standards’ need to be redefined. An education in accepting our gender identities, those that exist in the world, and to be whole-heartedly accepting of others around us is an important step we must take towards the realization of that purpose. Some argue that it might be too late for most people to change because of institutionalized beliefs that have taken deep root, but then we can educate, shape, and influence the young mind, no? Some hope lies therein.
Educating the young does not mean we cannot do anything about the adults of our society. We have recently seen feminist groups and artists reclaiming public spaces. Such groups are accepting of all people, with their eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, with different gender, sexual, religious, political, and social identities. The whole idea is to accept and understand people irrespective of various social bounds.
Acceptance and affection have been tested and it is a proven way of breaching through walls of ego, hatred, and prejudice. Why not, then, include the transgender community in our schools and colleges, companies, and organizations, in our friend circles? They are a limb that’s hurting and we have been inflicting a wound upon wound for decades. Let us remedy the injuries, heal the wounds, perhaps then we can provide some comfort to the social body of our society. We need a concentrated effort in providing safety, protection, love, and opportunity to the transgender community so they may grow as individuals.