Transgenders are not running in the elections for your entertainment!
We're witnessing a pivotal moment in Pakistan's history - not a light-hearted sideshow.
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
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