There are some moments in life which we term as life changing moment. It transforms you as a person and gives you new vision and new zeal to live for. Your inner core gets shaken and you discover a new meaning of life. One such moment came in my life in summer of 2005 when I saw two people on the road side beating a transgender badly. I couldn’t find out the exact reason that time and it is still unknown to me but all I can remember from my childhood memory is that no one stopped for a second to look into the real matter and no one seemed to care what was going on with that person. People stopped, saw and moved forward. As a sensitive child it was shocking for me. I wanted to stop and help but I was also not allowed to stay there by my elders. That incident left a lasting impression on my mind and soul.I could never forget the echoes of his screams and that helpless face and even after years, his helplessness haunted me. Somewhere amidst those haunting echoes, I made a firm commitment to myself that if I ever get a chance to contribute to the society, I will be the voice of this helpless community who face harassment every day, treated as aliens and I would work towards changing the overall mindset which act as an stimulus in strengthening the belief of those helpless people of their cruel fate even more.
When I started my research and interaction, I was startled by the fact that many of us are actually unaware of the term “Transgender” so let us make it clear first. Transgender is an umbrella term because it includes Trans men and Trans women whose binary gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex. However, if a person undergoes the process of sex reassignment surgery or gets medical assistance to change the assigned sex, he/she is termed as “Transsexual”.
In our society and in most of the south Asian region, transgenders face life challenges related to their social adjustment and are painfully marginalized.
Until now our media has reported large number of incidents where a transgender have been victimized by means of physical assault, harassment and sexual abuse and the saddened fact is that their voices are left unheard and they are helpless. How unkind life could be with them that their own parents abandon them after being identified as “Transgender” and they become the rolling stone of societal hardships and are not acknowledged as a third gender. We can’t deny the fact that despite winning a legal acceptance, the existence of social stigma hampers their social adjustment.
When I Started working towards upliftment of Transgender, I started interacting with them and I was surprised to see that against my pre conceived notion of them being silent, they were quite vocal about their pain and they had lots of stories to tell, of their sufferings, of their ambition, of their wish to be identified among normal citizens.
I collected stories from my own country as well as neighboring countries and shared them on my page. On one side I received positive feedback from them but at the same time they were not optimistic about whether my effort would bring any change. When I said that I am firm in my commitment, they treated me well and said, ‘But you are so young and so good. People won’t listen to you’.
Voicing her angst, a transgender person Alia says, “We face harassment every other day. Once I went out for begging and there were some teenagers who passed insulting comments on us and offered us money if we show them our Genitals. It was humiliating and we felt disgusted and it was not an one off incident. We face such hardships everyday”.
Another transgender Sonia says, “I am not happy with the life I am living .Every night, I ask God what you have done to me? Life would have been better, if I was a normal male or female. We can’t think of anything else when we struggle for most basic requirement of survival i.e respect”.
We all somehow know the pain of being left out and not acknowledged but the world is completely different for them as they face it every second of their lives. Being ostracized and living with that reality is not an easy task.
Irrespective of our argument about their sexual orientation or gender identity, the way forward is that when we will actually recognize them as Human beings and befriend with them with head held high and by understanding that Gender identity is not a choice, and then only their upliftment is possible. We will have to get over our own notions and we will have to welcome them in the mainstream by breaking the taboos and make way for them.
If they have to live a dignified life, onus lies on us, all of us.
Fakiha Ali aims to amplify the voices of underrepresented and marginalized communities of Pakistan using a variety of mediums including public awareness campaigns and research. Her current focus is utilizing the potential of transgender community in development of human resources through research and vocational trainings. On the other hand, being an Emerging Leader of Pakistan fellow with Atlantic council of U.S., She is on the verge of collaborating with different community based organizations working for the empowerment of third gender and marginalized people. Fakiha has also represented Pakistan in south Asian youth conference, held in Sri Lanka in 2015. While seeing her passion and dedication for removing the stigma against third gender, Fakiha has been selected as a highly commended runner up for Queen’s Young Leader Award, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, in partnership with comic relief and the Royal Common Wealth society.