Transgenders are not running in the elections for your entertainment!

Published: April 1, 2013
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Bindiya Rana and Sanam Fakir, both members of the transgender community, have recently announced their decision to try for seats in the provincial assembly from separate regions. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Is it possible, I wonder, to initiate a conversation about transgender persons running in the upcoming elections without provoking laughter and shaking one’s head in disapproval?

What is it about transgender people that we seem to find so funny? Are they not humans? Do they not have rights?

Bindiya Rana and Sanam Fakir, both members of the transgender community, have recently announced their decision to try for seats in the provincial assembly from separate regions. It’s deplorable that the media, for the most part, has been treating this news as a light-hearted, election sideshow — a ‘fun fact’, if you will — to offer some relief from the more serious and pressing aspects of the election.

This is entirely unsurprising, recognising that the nation is unaccustomed to seeing transgenders performing tasks that are so ‘out of place’.

There are countless among us for whom watching a transgender person run for elections is like, and I say this with deep regret, watching a cat on the Internet wearing people clothes.

This is new, uncharted territory in Pakistani politics, and we’re all witnesses to a pivotal moment in history.

What makes this so important, one may ask?

When was the last time you went to a fast food joint and had a transgender employee ask if you if wish to up-size your meal? Ever been to the bank and discussed your account status with a man in a lady’s dress?

Of the 100 transgender people you’ve met, 96 of them are likely to have been either begging on the street, or dancing to the latest Bollywood item song. This is not because of their unbound admiration for such activities, but due to the lack of opportunities to serve their country in more meaningful ways.

Evidently, that’s about to change.

The Supreme Court ruling in 2011, allowing transgenders to be included in the voters’ list, is a landmark victory for the community. This is despite the fact that many of them have faced tremendous difficulties attaining their national ID cards.

It’s still too early to lose our sense of optimism, acknowledging that these problems are normal during such transitions.

For a group known for little else besides singing, dancing and telling sassy jokes, transgenders have begun to be regarded as nothing more than mere entertainers.

Well, ladies and gentleman, this is not a show. The transgender community is not running in this election because they see this as an amusing stunt. They are contesting because they feel they can make a difference in the way the government is run, and in turn address the specific socio-political problems faced by their own community. These are serious, well-motivated participants.

Our endorsement or opposition of their candidacy should be based on an honest assessment of their political skills, ability to serve the public faithfully, and overall competency. The fact that they belong to the transgender community is no indicator of any of these traits, therefore is neither a qualifier nor a disqualifier.

It can easily be imagined that for many in the transgender community, this is not a fight for seats in the provincial assembly. It’s a tooth-and-nail battle to establish their image as regular citizens, and not a satellite society hanging outside the Pakistani mainstream.

Read more by Faraz here, or follow him on Twitter @FarazTalat

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahsan Raza Firdousi

    Thank you Faraz, this might help to change perception, in a very limited but important audience i.e your readers. Still a long way to go Recommend

  • Queen

    As a Pakistani citizen, they have the right to contest the elections. Recommend

  • Mohsin

    nice article, transgenders should be given more opportunities. They are as human&Pakistani as any male or female. Recommend

  • Sonia

    I know several people who support the idea. It is not a novel concept and they contested before as well. I think writer should not generalise his experiences with a few people on everybody else. As for a man in lady’s clothes, I have not see that even in western countries.. doesn’t mean they don’t have rights. Although it can be argued that transgendered folks in Pakistan are poor, but that is more because they dont go to schools as much (for the fear of being bullied perhaps), but they dont lobby for it either!

    Pakistan could be an example for other countries since we recognize ‘third sex’ officially!
    In Pakistan you see many gays in the media, fashion industry, cinema. people know about that and life goes on. Please don’t use another article to lambast Pakistani people.Recommend

  • Something Clever

    Yes, they should be treated as equals. But, it simply doesn’t change something. No matter what happens, in the end, they’re still “a guy in a dress” to many people and quite honestly, that’s just funny sometimes.
    That’s not discrimination. I laugh at a lot of things about different types of people. It doesn’t mean they’re inferior or shouldn’t be treated equally. They can laugh at me, too, if they find a reason. I won’t cry.Recommend

  • Jingle Bells

    @Queen:
    they cannot contest elections for your kind information. Their applications or nominations won’t make it past election commission of Pakistan. They DO NOT … and i mean DO NOT qualify for the elections and representation of the people of Pakistan. Constitutionally, they fail on many fronts. Around 5 to 10 clauses in constitution of Pakistan render them ineligible straight away.Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Jingle Bells

    Please elaborate on how they do not qualify for the election.

    .

    Something Clever,

    It’s not really about laughing at them (though that is rude too), it’s about laughing at the idea of them running for election.Recommend

  • Stranger

    They are the ones who make a spectacle of themselves. Thousands of Transgenders are leading quite lives paying taxes/ donating to charity / taking care of their parents/ busy in their 9-5 jobs. Some want attention and money by wearing florescent red lipstick, wearing ridiculously coloured dresses , dancing , singing in weddings … They are to be blamed for their plight. I welcome the entry of Transgenders in politics. They are there in all fields already but are quite and ‘invisible’. In all sectors they should become more visible , talk more , address issues other than their own ( I mean issues related to X). That will earn them more respect. Contrary to what ‘they’ think, people are minding their own business. All are not waiting to ‘laugh’ at them.Recommend

  • Queen

    @Jingle Bells:
    I said that they have the Right to contest the elections. Kindly mention the 5 to 10 clauses in the constitution that make them ineligible. Recommend

  • g.a

    very well saidRecommend

  • Ali

    a very well written and apt blog!
    transgenders are normal people, and they deserve as much respect as any man or womanRecommend

  • Reader

    Nice article.
    Just a little something: The term ‘transgenders‘ is grammatically incorrect. Transgender person or Transgender people is the right use of the term. I hope ET takes care of this next time.Recommend

  • Irfan

    @Sonia:
    I think your analysis of situation is pretty biased, The article portrays the real situation on ground and somehow you take it as an negative comment against Pakistani people- The biggest issue of Pakistani and other Muslim nations is that we do not want to recognize our faults and off course if we do not recognize them we will never fix them.

    It is important that we make efforts to identify and improve the situation in our societies, the main difference in western societies and ours is that they have taken active measures to correct their ills while as we are “defensive” anytime someone speaks the truth with the result considering our societies flawless and living in a fools paradise….Recommend

  • Umar Farooq Khawaja

    @Jingle Bells:
    I cannot think of any reason for which a transgendered person should be disqualified from running for a seat in the parliament. If there is something in the constitution that disqualifies someone purely on the basis that they are transgendered, then clearly it is the constitution that is in the wrong.Recommend