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Third Gender: An Identity which Awaits Recognition and Acceptance!

Transgender is generally understood to be a broad category encompassing many gender identities and expressions

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recognize us as a part of the society and not a flaw of the society
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Nov 17, 2016: Identity classification is of foremost in any country, be it a developing nation or a developed country, its acceptance of an individual categorically chooses two identities: male and female. As if they are only the sole granter of being an ideal citizen.

It is pretty strange that the third gender identity has existed for several decades but they still suffer from an identity crisis. Their existence in the society is still questionable and tough for the common people to accept. The word transgender gained widespread popularity in the 1990s as an umbrella term to describe people who cross over – or trans – traditional gender roles.

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Currently, transgender is generally understood to be a broad category encompassing many gender identities and expressions, including transsexual, genderqueer and cross-dresser, among many other. Though the term transgender has only been used in print for about 50 years, transgender-related practices have existed throughout history. For example, in the late 18th century, a male-born French diplomat named Chevalier d’Éon famously identified, dressed and passed as a woman for more than 30 years.

Most of them consider their birth as ‘the single biggest regret of their life’. Is it their fault or is the backwardness of the society that compel them to curse their birth. This is the biggest challenge that we are facing even today. The answer is none. We tend to follow the guidelines of our country and when a country itself doesn’t recognize a community how can they expect the layman to do so. When we boastfully talk of nationalism, secularism, equality do we even think of including this section of society within our debate? No, we never do that because it is always either a male or a female or else it has no identity.

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The atrocity on the third gender and the violence on them in the profession of prostitution is not hidden from us. They are treated as a flaw to a society and thus exploited to any extent. Let’s take the example of Alisha, a Pakistani transgender who was shot dead by her boyfriend. Her friends say she was neglected by doctors and medical professionals who taunted her, rather than treating her. One of her friend Farzana, heading an organisation devoted to fighting for the rights of transgender people in Pakistan’s conservative north-west told that “First they sent her to male ward, but other patient and family members ordered her out. She was shunted then to the female ward, but she wasn’t welcome there either”. As outcasts, Pakistan’s transgender people are often forced into begging, dancing and even prostitution to earn money.  They also live in fear of attacks, causing most to either change their names or use only one name to give them anonymity in the society.

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As soon as their gender identity begins to unfold, the future of khawaja saras becomes shaky. Their childhoods are plagued with memories of aggressive relatives determined to shake them out of what they call their “feminine phase”.  However there is a small relief for the transgender people of Pakistan as of now since at least 50 clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwa , declaring marriage between transgender persons lawful. A transgender person having “visible signs of being a male” may marry a woman or a transgender person with “visible signs of being a female” and vice versa, the religious decree said. However, the fatwa added that a person with “visible signs of both genders” cannot marry anyone, Dawn reported.

As of India, the Center introduced the Transgender Person’s (Protection Of Rights) Bill, 2016, aiming to do away with the discrimination against transpersons and giving them the right to “self-perceived” gender identity, as reported by PTI. The Bill also mentions equipping every establishment with a grievance redressal process, to ensure protection from harassment and discrimination. Punishments will include a jail term ranging from six months to two years. A penalty to be imposed on those persons found guilty of forcing a transgender to bonded

Punishments will include a jail term ranging from six months to two years. A penalty to be imposed on those persons found guilty of forcing a transgender to bonded labour or begging, according to the Bill. This is a very positive step taken by the government to shed the insecurity of being a transgender person. It now, up to the society as to how they co-operate to the proposed law.

by Saptaparni Goon of NewsGram. Twitter: @saptaparni_goon

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Pakistan’s First Transgender News Anchor

"There is a lot of difference between the pre- and post-March 23 Marvia. It had to happen. The change had to come,"

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Marvia Malik, Pakistan's first transgender news anchor. VOA

Washington, March 25 TV viewers in Pakistan, on March 23, saw something they had never seen before —a transgender anchor presenting the news in prime time.

Despite this giant leap, Marvia Malik, the first and only transgender news anchor in the country, said the difficulties faced by people like her in Pakistan are far from over.

“I am a journalism degree holder, but I faced the same difficulties [as] the transgender people who simply beg or dance in the streets,” Malik told VOA in a phone interview.

ALSO READ: A Tale of Resilience and Courage: India’s First Transgender Judge Joyita Mondal

transgender, lgbt, news anchor
In a country such as Pakistan, it is common to mock transgender people, who are expected to earn their livelihood mainly by dancing, begging or working in the sex trade. Pixabay

The most daunting task for them is getting a respectable job. But Malik said if more entrepreneurs and businesses showed more courage in breaking the social taboos as her employer, “Kohenoor News,” things can change.

“Like other trans people, I did not get any support from my family.On my own, I did some menial jobs and continued my studies. I had always wanted to be a news anchor, and my dream came true when I got selected,” she said.

Junaid Ansari, owner of the TV station, told VOA that Malik was not selected because the station wanted to make a point about breaking taboos. Ansari said he instructed his team to make the selection on the basis of merit and not gender.

ALSO READ: Here’s why Being a Transgender is the biggest regret in Pakistan

transgender, lgbt, news anchor
“We had asked aspiring news presenters to come for the auditions. I got a call from one of my team members who said that one of the applicants was a transgender,” Ansari said. Pixabay

There was some pushback from his team, but Ansari stuck to his decision.

“They are human beings, too, and they should be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. I purely made the decision on the basis of treating all humans equally.The thought of challenging the social norms or breaking taboos did not even come to my mind,” Ansari said.

Ansari said feedback regarding Malik’s hiring has been mostly positive, though the station has received some negative feedback.

ALSO READ: Is US military looking forward to recruiting transgender people?

transgender, lgbt, news anchor
In Pakistan’s Twittersphere and other social media platforms, people are praising Malik’s selection, calling it a step in the right direction. Pixabay

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Senate approved a bill for the protection of transgender rights. The bill asked the government to ensure employment opportunities and easy installment loans for transgender people.

According to the 2017 census, there are over 10,000 transgender people in Pakistan, a number some people say is much higher.

In the meantime, Malik is enjoying her instant fame.

“There is a lot of difference between the pre- and post-March 23 Marvia. It had to happen. The change had to come,” she said. VOA