Transgender men in Pakistan seek acceptance and visibility
Transgender men in Pakistan seek acceptance and visibility

Lahore: Aman, a 22-year-old transgender resident of Lahore in East Pakistan, claims that he always feels close to his father. When he was little his father used to warm his hands because it was cold outside. His father used to wait for him to return before dinner, no matter how late he got home from university.

They are now disconnected. Aman has lost everything as a result of his decision to live as a man. He no longer communicates with his five siblings or parents. He was forced to leave home after leaving college. He has made three suicide attempts.

In Pakistan, trans men experience extreme segregation. Transgender people in this country are often stigmatized due to the conservative Muslim majority and deeply entrenched views on gender and sexuality.

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But there is some tolerance for trans women because of cultural norms. Raising awareness of the marginalized and misunderstood community has been made possible by trans women in leadership positions in government, on news programs, in TV shows and movies, and even on the catwalk.

Pakistani film "Joyland", an Oscar contender, sparked controversy last year for its portrayal of a relationship between a married man and a transgender woman, but it also attracted attention from the transgender community in that country.

However, trans men are still being ignored and receive very little support, aid or funding. Although the number of trans women activists is growing, Aman and others claim that these networks rarely include or address trans men and their challenges.

This is the worst, Aman said. "The people we consider our own people also turn us out after being rejected by our families and blood relatives."

The historical practice of "Khwaja Sira", originally a term for male eunuchs working in the Mughal Empire of South Asia hundreds of years ago, has allowed trans women to carve out a niche in the culture.

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The phrase is now generally used to describe men who identify as women but were born male. The Khwaja Sira culture also has an old network of "gurus", famous people who guide others.

But those who were born female but identify as male have no place in this word or culture.

Mani, a representative of the trans male community in Pakistan, said that "every Khwaja Sira is transgender, but not all transgenders are Khwaja Sira." The Khwaja Sira community has been known for a long time, but trans men are less well known.

In 2018, he founded a non-profit organization because he noticed that nothing was being done to support the well-being or mental health of trans men.

In terms of securing their rights, trans people have made some progress. They are able to identify themselves as a third gender, which is neither male nor female, and Supreme Court rulings have confirmed that they have the same rights as all Pakistani citizens.

Mani contributed to the trans rights bill, but since it passed, transgender women have done most of the lobbying and advocacy work.

According to Mani, no one discusses trans men or how the Act affects them. But given the campaign being run by religious extremists, now is not the appropriate time to discuss it (veto changes in the Act). I don't want to harm the neighborhood in any way.

The fact that women in Pakistan have less freedom than men, with restrictions on what they can do, where they can go and how they can live, is another factor contributing to the low visibility of trans men. Is.

Women and girls are less free to act outside social norms because their behavior is tied to family honour. Practically speaking, according to Aman, a girl would not be able to meet trans people or join the community even if she wanted to, as she would not be allowed to come out.

Aman, who comes from a wealthy and well-educated family, claimed that his parents indulged him as a child and allowed him to act and dress in ways that were considered male. He came to school in the boys' uniform.

But after all, he was expected to behave and look like a girl. This resulted in less freedom and possibility of marriage. He knew that he would have sex change operations but he did not want life.

Although his father was apparently confident that he would outgrow it by the time he was 18, he told him that he would have to wait until he was 18.

No one was available for Aman to discuss his gender identity struggles. Using search engines and social media, he connected with a trans man in India, who put him in touch with a WhatsApp group of trans men in Pakistan.

He claimed that while still at home, Aman grew his hair long and dressed like a girl "just to survive".

These limitations, he claimed, "started a war in my head." It was challenging for me because I had to socialise as a girl because you have to.

The taboos surrounding mixing with the other sex prevented him from having male friends, and his parents forbade him from having female friends out of concern that it might result in a lesbian relationship.

However, Aman set objectives to complete his education, earn a living, and become independent in order to eventually live as a man. He was taking hormone therapy by 2021, and his voice was altering.

But everything changed when a family member directly inquired as to whether Aman was transitioning. All the reservations and concerns his parents had about his transitional steps were stoked by the question. They disowned him, declaring that if he wanted to live as a man, he could no longer reside under their roof.

They said that everything could be tolerated, but Aman said, "We can't tolerate this." According to his mother, it would harm his siblings' chances of getting married. One time, his sisters locked him in a restroom. His only supporter was his older brother.

Aman left home and started living alone, acting entirely like a man.

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Mani has been helpful in getting him a job in the non-governmental organization's office. Aman still struggles and barely makes ends meet. The first is that he hasn't officially changed his ID card's gender to male, which is required for him to vote, open a bank account, apply for jobs, and access government benefits like health care.

He once visited NADRA, the government organisation in charge of ID cards, but there he was harassed by the staff. They poked fun at him, inspected him, and demanded a bribe. A member of staff felt his chest.

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