On Pakistan, Homophobia & Violence Against the Trans Community

On Pakistan, Homophobia & Violence Against the Trans Community

On May 25, Pakistani transgender activist Alisha was killed after being shot multiple times following an altercation between a group of men and a group of trans women.

While she was transported to the Lady Reading Hospital nearby immediately, reports said that her care was delayed as doctors debated whether to admit her to the male or female ward due to complaints from other patients and hospital staff.

After being placed in a curtained-off bed and made to wait in the hallway by the bathroom, she was finally given a private room, but not without other staff members making derogatory comments, asking whether her blood was HIV-positive, and asking for her phone number, and how much she charged for dancing. She succumbed to her injuries two days after the shooting.

Alisha was the fifth member of Pakistan’s TransAction Alliance advocacy group to be attacked this year in the country’s Khyber-Pahtunkhwa province.

The TransAction Alliance is the first group of its kind for trans people in the province, and serves as a major advocacy group for the rights of trans people in the region with the aim of “reclaiming space for the transgender community, and ending transphobia.”

It goes without saying that Alisha’s story is horrific — but it isn’t an anomaly. Just last week, model Gigi Gorgeous was detained and prevented from entering Dubai for being transgender.

In Pakistan, there are an estimated 50,000 trans men and women in the KP province, and at least half a million nationwide. Roughly 45 trans men and women have been killed in the province in the past year alone, says activist Farzana Jan. This number is, of course, only inclusive of the killings that have been publicly reported.

In Pakistan, there are an estimated 50,000 trans men and women in the KP province, and at least half a million nationwide. tweet

Nor does all anti-trans violence manifest itself in physical violence. The broader culture in Pakistan and a number of other countries as well is one of alienation and dehumanization of trans men and women.

In Pakistan specifically, for example, transgender women are called “hijras” — neither male more female. The micro-aggressions that go along with this labeling and otherization in the form of common cultural expressions and slurs are innumerable, to say the least.

Additionally, trans women are not even considered human, but instead are regarded as magical objects of good luck. Many have been forced to dance or sell their bodies simply to survive as discriminatory practices prevent the vast majority of trans men and women from obtaining jobs.

Alisha, for instance, once reported that despite her 12 years of schooling, she had been unable to get a job, and was instead merely mocked by the government officers who were present when she went to apply.

Legally speaking, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ruled that all transgender people have equal rights; however, this is far from the reality, as basic healthcare and access to services such as national identity cards and basic education have been withheld from them at the local implementation levels. 

Most importantly, violence against trans men and women is not just a non-Western problem. In the United States, 14 trans men and women have been killed in just the past six months alone (bearing in mind that these are only the reported deaths), while bills such as the one recently signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina are rooted in discrimination and aim to restrict their basic rights in the name of “protecting” society. And even in America, we see our media dress up men as women on our TV screens as a mockery, with the sole purpose of boosting ratings.

In the United States, 14 trans men and women have been killed in just the past six months alone, while bills such as the one recently signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory are rooted in discrimination and aim to restrict their basic rights in the name of ‘protecting’ society. tweet

On top of all of this, we also cannot forget about the recent tragedy in Orlando, Fla., when 29 year-old Omar Mateen walked into the Pulse Nightclub and opened fire on the crowd of LGBTQ+ patrons. The attack, which killed 50 and left 53 wounded, is the largest mass shooting in American history since the massacre of the Lakota tribe in Wounded Knee in 1890, and the largest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.

Transphobia and homophobia are not problems restricted to any one corner of the world, but are widespread issues in every society that must be rooted out and countered with radical love.

It starts within our own communities, and learning to live like the Prophet (PBUH), with full acceptance of those around us, rather than issuing our own judgments and otherizing those who we do not identify in the same way with.

Unless we learn to treat each other with unconditional compassion, these attacks on humanity will continue — for, to add to what we have heard so many times in recent years, to kill one person — irrespective of their gender identity — is to kill all of mankind.

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