In a country where the trans-community is consigned to a low-income group with very few opportunities for employment, Kami Sid made waves when she debuted as Pakistan's first trans model.
Born in a middle-class family, Sid was given a male name. "I was very feminine," Sid reminisces. One of seven siblings, her family rarely allowed her go outside; they were worried she would be bullied. "We’re not a third gender," says Sid. "What is the first and second gender? You’re a woman. Are you first or second?"
Sid's father passed away when she was a teenager, she was raised by an understanding mother. "A mother who carried someone in her womb and raised her… how can she not know?" Her siblings, however, have been apprehensive of her coming out on a public platform.
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Acknowledging the "Mama's little boy" tattoo on her arm that was inspired by Indian actor Priyanka Chopra's "Daddy's little girl", Sid says "for my mother, I was born a boy" - who still refers to Sid as a male.
Growing up, Sid says she thought she was gay. "I knew that word. I thought I was different, [that] I wasn’t normal," she said. Speaking of her childhood, she identifies with her zodiac sign Taurus. "It’s a bull, and when it gets angry it goes on a rampage. When I was very young I had a lot of rage. I don’t know what it’s called in psychological terms. I used to lash out, hit people. After working, there’s a sense of peace. Maybe it’s because I have seen [that] other people have more problems."
As Pakistan's first trans model, Sid did not have any local figure for inspiration but she looks up to US model Geena Rocero and actor Laverne Cox. Speaking of the fashion industry in Pakistan, Sid says "you have to make a space for yourself in the fashion industry'. "There’s so much lobbying. I’m here to change the concept."
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Fan of Indian actor Madhuri Dixit, Sid loves dancing. She recalls performing solo on a Naseebo Lal song recently that turned many heads. She loves wearing sarees and recently did a shoot in Denmark wearing one. "In a sari, in the cold!" she exclaims.
With a graduate degree in business studies, the 26-year-old's dream to study abroad were crushed when she was denied a visa. It wasn't until 2012 that Sid traveled out of the country for a transgender network conference in Thailand after being noticed for her candon on Facebook by a non-profit working for trans and MSM issues. That event introduced Sid to the world of activism.
She has been working with the Sindh government on legislation to protect the trans-community while being invited to diplomatic-community soirees, including the upcoming Karachi Literature Festival at Southbank Centre in London.
Sid has an unyielding desire to continue working in Pakistan despite warnings by mentors who have asked her to stay politically correct and her mother who advises a cut down of TV appearances.
"I know how to break stereotypes, darling,” she said confidently. "I became a model; tomorrow I’ll become a mum. People think we’re just sex workers or beggars or dancers. After modelling, I’ve said we can become anything – doctors, engineers, teachers. We just need a platform."
This article originally appeared on The Guardian