I can imagine the first look of my parents the day I came into this world. It was surely of bewilderment and fear — for I was not the boy they were hoping for, nor the girl they would have settled with. I was a Khawaja Sira (transgender). It took a while, as a mother’s love is a mother’s love, but I was accepted for who I was among my immediate family. If only society was also as loving and welcoming. The ‘problems’ associated with my identity increased as I grew older and it was not long before I moved in with a Guru (transgenders’ guardian) and started living with my new ‘family’.
This is the story of Peshawar’s Farzana, and more or less reflects the ordeal of every one of Pakistan’s transgender community who are shunned away from ‘normal’ society and forced to live on the periphery.
However, albeit gradually, the public and private sectors are working towards mainstreaming transgender persons.
One such initiative was carried out recently by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government when it organised a sports festival involving transgender persons from across the province. The event, hosted at Peshawar’s Qayyum Sports Complex, featured seven games including a marathon, cycling, archery, and cricket.
The KP Sports Board, which organised the event, reached out to various Gurus across the province in order to ensure maximum participation and had earmarked an amount of Rs1 million for the event. The organisers not only ensured provision of sporting kits, uniforms, and travel/daily allowances for the participants, but also fixed cash prizes for the top players in all categories.
A total of 50 transpersons from across the province participated in the games. It was the first time they had not only been recognised as equal citizens but also given a chance to showcase their talents in the sporting field.
Saqlain Shah, operations director of KP Sports Board, stated that the government will soon hold similar events in other districts and then organise inter-provincial games as well.
Unfortunately, the event was overshadowed with allegations of wrongdoing later after Arzoo Khan — a representative of the province’s transgender persons — held a press conference asserting that the government curbed the number of participants. Arzoo also claimed that the government spent much less on the event than it has claimed — alleging financial corruption.
However, Shah refuted the claims, stating that they had planned for 200 persons to take part in the event but only 50 showed up. He added that there has not been any misappropriation of funds as the department has complete records of funds spent on the entire event.
Trans Action Association of Pakistan President Farzana, who earlier shared her childhood story with Sabaat, echoed the claims made by Arzoo and informed that some members of their own community were behind the ‘low participation’ in the event so as to line their own pockets.
Veteran sports journalist of the province, Mohammad Asim, claimed that the local transgender community is divided into two groups which is why, despite preparations for participation of 200 persons, only 50 took part in the games.
Despite the controversy, it is welcoming that such events are being undertaken and it is hoped that for next year’s games, lessons can be learned to ensure the maximum participation from the province’s transgender community.