The life of a transgender woman in Pakistan is hard, to say the least
This is part of our series, “Tales from The Dark Side“, about the deepest, darkest, harshest realities of Pakistani society that should serve as lessons.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed here are those of the author’s and don’t necessarily represent or reflect the views of MangoBaaz.
By: Shizza Hashmi
Her conversion was smooth. She just loved dancing. She must be God’s favorite child as He chose to give her the family she’s happy with, who often see famished nights with tales untold. Having spent more than 25 years in Sargodha, dancing and stealing the shows everywhere, it’s time she changes things, or to be honest, restarts things; as few incidents have been life changing for a pure soul like her.
Her last six years in Islamabad have been different. Yes, it’s because she’s a transgender woman
She feels old and realizes, with age comes great responsibility. She shares a rented house with seven other people. “We’re a family. I pray timely, I bless people and receive money, I have friends, family, and a lover, and I have my identity.” Sobia, a matriculation graduate, who never utters any words of thanklessness, wishes no one gives birth to what she is, not even her enemies.
Sobia’s memoirs of her biological parents are blurred. As a transgender woman, the only family she knows is her own kind of people around her
Her biological parents did the right thing to give her up, she says. That’s what she has accepted with a heavy heart, and while speaking of that, she explains how her tribe members take babies who belong to the clan. “Daughter belongs to maa, son to the father, and the third sex, to us! Where they actually belong.”
Having two sisters back at Sargodha to support financially, Sobia supplements her earnings by begging on city streets. It’s like she’s a native to the markaz now. She’s respected and empathized here. Along with her friends, she goes to shops, to parties and weddings to earn, but one thing she is not indulged in, is the sexual business that most of the eunuchs are tiring in.
Listening to her speak confident and fearlessly, it appeared that her priorities are set.
Sobia had gone to Talagang in the wedding season few years back , to perform along with her friends. It was a success until the festivity was raided by the police (in a drugs case) and one of her friends was taken to jail and mistreated to inhumane extents. That’s what brought her to Islamabad and now when she speaks of it, she’s conscious of the fact that it’s better having one meal a day, that doesn’t get one into trouble, rather than luxuriant ‘haram’ money. Still, a part of her can’t wait for “chittiyan kalaiyaan” to play, so she can groove to the beats.
She has a lover, Javaid.
She started getting close to him as their families interacted (short meetings and greetings of sympathy.) Sobia isn’t a jail bird and she can choose freely what she wants. She claims her love is true and that Javiad makes her happy and gratified with life.
Every new sunrise offers new energy and anticipations to Sobia, who does not get any job as she’s told she’s overage or she’s dumb to do the work. She loves make up. She applies face powder and lots of kohl and lipstick for daily street roving. She picks the brightest of her clothes and believes that the hardest thing to manage of all this is a smile that lasts all day.
Doing the daily business as a transgender woman in Pakistan, the blonde haired Sobia tries to stay out of sight of the policemen.
“They look for chances to take us to prison, snatch our money, beat us up and send back.”
The unjust behavior of the civil servicemen has been one reason why others like Sobia don’t have jobs or work to do. She stopped selling window-wipes after she knew that policemen are the gatekeepers of her trying to earn respectfully. “I haven’t experienced any demeaning attitude towards me from anyone, except the police. Of course they do not count in the humane category.”
Naturally, Sobia is a dreamer.
She blesses those who pay her and keeps dreaming of a life changing donation from a helping hand.
“On getting a huge amount of money, I’d start with buying lots of makeup, and then of course create a business so I can sit back home and earn.”
Till that magical day arrives, she eagerly waits for the time of the year when she can go on a tour to visit Daata darbaar, Saivan shareef, and other shrines, to pay her tributes and earn thousands by enjoying and entertaining. “My friends there are very hospitable. You take one step towards them, they take two towards you. We exchange presents whenever we meet.”
Sobia is expecting to see them all on her birthday next year, which she’ll celebrate after Eid-ul-fitr, in Sargodha. She knows dance because of her guru, and the last time she danced on a wedding, her group earned around 70,000 rupees. Sobia keeps herself busy all day, going shop to shop, greeting people on her way, answering her phone when it rings to “jhoom barabar.”
They say a person is never good enough for the world. A transgender woman in Pakistan has it even worse.
Same is the case with Sobia. She has a terrain of insecurities. Am I not pretty enough? Am I smart enough? Is my makeup perfect? Do they all hate me? Do they love me? Am I accepted here? Most questions remain unanswered and keep echoing in her mind as she sways down F-10 roads, her noisy heels tik-toking, her hair strands glittering as gold, as sunshine crosses them. Sobia strictly follows her rules of not knocking doors to beg, or sell her body to earn two cents more than she does now.
“Pleasure for the sake of pleasure”, she says, “mine lies in dancing and singing. Being booked for the night as business is too less a price for the life that’s been bestowed to me.” Sobia, belonging to a sexual minority, draws her paths free of regrets or wishes undone. She embraces life with an open heart and wishes well to all that comes her way.
“I avoid the blame game, for what I am, or what I could be. I do what a person like me does. I live on what you decide to give me in God’s name.”
For more of the deepest, darkest realities that plague our society check out ‘Tales From The Dark Side‘.
About the Author: Shizza can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover Image via: ibtimes.com