This is part of our annual, series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things.
The Pakistani transgender community has been brutally abused, made fun of, and has been disregarded for as long as we can remember. They are cast off from their families and their societies just for being who they are. Despite that, there are many who fight against the current to prove how they are much more than what they seem and are an asset to our community given their sheer talent and hard work.
Among them is Irha Parishei – a student, a model, and an activist pushing for the rights of transgenders and helping the world see that they can do anything, just like everyone else
Born in Sukkur, Irha has faced numerous challenges on her way to becoming a strong and independent woman from a small, scared child
During her childhood, she grew up with a confused gender identity and couldn’t understand where she belonged. To shun all of her doubts, she decided to get herself enrolled in a boys boarding school – but that made matters all the worse.
“In the beginning, I tried to kill my femininity and looked for ways that would help. Everyone around me tried to help me adopt masculine characteristics in my personality, such as hanging out with boys, learning to ride a bike or improving the way I walk or talk. People think we are acting a certain way – masculine or feminine – on purpose. They don’t know that we have no control over it.”
Despite everything, she was a straight-A student throughout her school life but things became tough when she decided to live for herself and embrace who she is and underwent transitioning
“I started transitioning in my university, [and that’s when] my grades started to drop because of the depression which was caused by the treatment of the people who I valued the most in my life,” Irha recalled.
But she didn’t let that let her down. She’s currently enrolled in the Software Engineering program at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST)
Irha came under the spotlight when she was featured by Generation, a Pakistani clothing brand. She applied to model for their Spring Collection shoot because she loved how the brand was furthering the cause of women empowerment.
For her, the only reason why she pursued modeling was that she wanted to portray a better image of the transgender community here in Pakistan and wanted to prove that they can do all that everyone else is capable of doing.
Irha Parishei: Looking at Irha, all you see is perfection. Her tousled hair, those wise eyes and that intelligent…
Later on, she was featured in a campaign called Change The Clap, an initiative by the Asia Pacific Transgender Network to help further the cause of inclusivity and respect for transgenders
“Change the Clap it was set to change the mindset of the people regarding the Trans community, it depicted that if we would change our behavior towards Trans people and encourage them to take a vital part in the development of society they would do more than our expectations,” Irha told us.
Gepostet von Asia Pacific Transgender Network am Samstag, 9. Dezember 2017
Irha now divides her time between her education and her work, but for her, social work takes precedence over everything.
“I believe humanity should be concerned for and served foremost, and I want to be a successful person and be at a position where I can serve humanity and influence people to spread peace, love, and harmony.”
She’s currently working with NCHR Pakistan and has been actively meeting with politicians so she can help sensitize the public about her community and to make them aware of the matters and difficulties a transgender faces, all while protecting their rights.
For Irha, the online presence and inclusivity of trans people in the fashion industry has helped change the perception here in the Pakistani society, but there’s more to it
“The positive effect is that their talent and creativity are showcased and people have seen how talented the members of the trans community are and that in a way has garnered them respect. However, a negative effect of this is that people have started to associate and generalize trans community as only those who excel in the fashion industry.”
She believes that the Pakistani youth can help protect LGBT+ rights by organizing events which focus on inclusivity of every person regardless of race, gender, sexuality and remove prejudice among them.
We’re in awe of the sheer strength and determination that this young woman has shown throughout her journey and she stands as an inspiration for many to break free of the barriers set by the norm and show the world exactly what we’re capable of!
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out “14 Days, 14 Stories”.
cover image via Umar Riaz / Generation