Recently, a video surfaced of a man brutally beating and abusing a trans individual. According to media reports, the man, known by the name of Jajja Butt, has been arrested along with other individuals involved in the incident.
Another video was also released of Julie, a member of the transgender community herself, narrating the details of the entire incident and the level of cruelty and abominable treatment – which includes being forced to drink urine, rape and violence – they are regularly subjected to.
While shedding light on the plight of the transgender community in the society, the emergence of the video also elicited a great deal of shock and outrage.
Although the expressions of outrage aren’t misplaced, there is also another issue that needs to be faced with: our role in enabling the condemnation of trans-individuals to the fringe of society where patterns of ostracization, marginalization, discrimination and violence against them reign.
How are we enablers and participants in perpetuating the position of the transgender community as second-class citizens?
It is not uncommon to hear “khusra” or “khusri” being thrown around as pejoratives or as so-called humor. And that is exactly what the usage of such language does; it reduces a community and a people to demonized and dehumanized subjects of crass humor, derogatory remarks, ridicule, insults and abuse. Our language is a vehicle for the reflection, reproduction and reinforcement of prevailing social realities, prejudices and beliefs, which are the most vile and unkind when it comes to vulnerable, neglected and persecuted communities like the transgender community.
Such is the level and pervasiveness of this ridicule that prime-time entertainment shows on major TV channels openly employ the identity of a trans individual as a device for humor by having the identity acted out as a character or costume.
These are nothing but shameless caricatures of the plight and situation of the transgender community in Pakistan.
A post by Rabia Tariq encapsulated the problem at hand:
It is right to demand that the state take vigorous steps for the protection and welfare of the transgender community in Pakistan, but the burden of responsibility falls upon us also too for we have been complicit in their isolation and persecution, if not by indifference and insensitivity, then by inaction.
The Supreme Court’s earlier recognition of transgender individuals as a separate gender category on national identity cards and its stress on their right to vote were certainly groundbreaking developments, but these developments cannot work in a vacuum, and existing ground realities attest to this. It is essential to realize that a community which has been oppressed, isolated and ill-treated since decades can neither be integrated in society nor utilize any extension of equal rights without the necessary material and social conditions which must be created for them. The state or government may emphasize or order the employment of trans individuals, but individuals from the community itself cannot avail this without having acquired the necessary education or skills that they have been deprived from all their lives by their removal from participation in mainstream society, and without the cultural and social recognition, acceptance and tolerance of their presence in public spaces, their status as equal citizens with equal rights and equal humanity.
And it is here that we, as a society and a people, must step in to reflect on our role in enabling the discrimination and injustice against this community, and to challenge the entrenched and prejudiced institutional and cultural environment which perpetuates their persecution by our indifferent or active participation in it.