SUKKUR: When Sanam Fakir describes her life, she admits it is not easy. “My life is like a tree, which stands under the scorching sun but provides shelter to others,” the 38-year-old transgender tells The Express Tribune.
“Though it is very difficult to spread flowers for others when you’re walking on stones yourself, but I think that is the spirit of humanity.”
Sanam has seen and experienced people treating transgenders an an object. Something to make them laugh, she says.
“But nobody tries to peep into our souls.” We are like this because God made us this way, she explains. “Otherwise we too feel pain and joy.”
Sanam Fakir was born in 1975 in the house of a pesh imam, Haji Syed Mohammad, in New Goth, Sukkur, and was named Syed Essa Gul. With four brothers and five sisters, Sanam is the youngest of all. “As I grew older my parents started judging me and figuring out that there was something wrong with me,” she recalls. “I always behaved and walked like girls.”
Sanam was enrolled in a school in New Goth. “I couldn’t study beyond middle school because of my classmates’ attitude,” she says. Even her brothers and sisters used to make fun of her but her parents always hushed them up.
“Everything was going all right until my father was alive,”she recalls. Soon after his death in 1994, her brothers’ attitude became intolerable. “They openly used to call me a ‘hijra’ and ‘zankha’, and would ask me to go and live with people like me.” Her eyes tear up with these memories.
When she had had enough, Sanam decided to leave her father’s home. “I left home at the age of 20 and started living with a transgender, Shahnaz, in Sukkur’s Shamsabad Muhalla.”
She was heartbroken to leave her family behind and the lifestyle of the transgender community – which included dancing and other vulgarities – did not appeal her. “So I borrowed Rs2,000 from a trader and started selling bedsheets door-to-door.” This was the first attempt Sanam made at having an independent life and breaking the norms that the transgender community had made up.
“After sometime my business started flourishing and I started bringing dinner sets and blankets from Quetta and sell them in Sukkur,” she recalls happily, adding that her earnings were enough to ensure she led a happy life.
In 2002, Sanam decided to engage in social work. “I gave money to another transgender, Mujeeba, for an eye operation.” By the year 2008, Sanam established her own social welfare organisation, Sanam Fakir Welfare Association, which aimed at mitigating the sufferings of everyone, especially the transgenders.
“The well-to-do people supported my noble cause and provided funds for the purpose, which I used to arrange weddings of poor and needy girls,” she says.
The Sanam Fakir organisation also arranged relief goods for the internally displaced persons of Swat, apart from helping the flood survivors in 2010. “I have also established a computer centre for the transgenders so they can learn skills for a better future.”
“I want to establish a shelter home for the transgenders and an old home for parents abandoned by their children,” Sanam adds. She believes transgenders can play a role of bridging the gap between men and women in society. She appeals to donor agencies to help her carry on her dreams. “I am already engaged in social work but I cannot do much with my limited resources,” she admits. For her fellow transgenders, she has only one message: to refrain from indecent activities and find respectable living.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2013.