Riz Ahmed visits transgender communities in Karachi | Pakistan Today

Riz Ahmed visits transgender communities in Karachi

British actor/rapper recently shared on his Instagram his experience of his visit to a transgender settlement in Karachi during his trip to Pakistan.

He was recently in Pakistan to attend the Lahore Literary Festival 2018. He shared photos from his visit to the settlement and wrote a note on Pakistan’s khwaja siras for his followers around the world.

A transgender lady in Karachi, face bleeding fresh from a street-fight. The transgender community has been an established part of South Asian culture for hundreds of years. You see many many more transgender people walking around in Pakistan than in New York or London. In recent times Pakistan has even had a recognised ‘third gender’ on official government documents, cementing their place in society. Despite this recognition however, they are marginalised and often earn a living through dancing, sex work or a kind of spiritual begging (it is believed their prayers and curses carry more weight, so it’s best not to anger them, and instead to seek their blessings). Same sex relationships are very common in Pakistan and often not thought of as a sign of homosexuality. In many ways this is a non binary culture – in terms of gender, sexuality, and faith. Religiously observant transgender sex workers who live by exacting a spiritual tax, is a good example of this. Known as Khwaaja Sarai (or disparagingly and more commonly as ‘Hijra’) they trace their lineage at least as far back as being an important part of the Mughal royal court and administration. The community has an ancient custom of adopting newcomers into guru and disciple relationships. Financial and social rights and responsibilities flow both ways in an interdependent, although sometimes exploitative ‘family’ system.

A post shared by Riz Ahmed (@rizahmed) on Mar 6, 2018 at 4:18am PST

He posted a couple of pictures on Instagram with the caption, “A transgender lady in Karachi, face bleeding fresh from a street-fight. The transgender community has been an established part of the South Asian culture for hundreds of years. You see many many more transgender people walking around in Pakistan than in New York or London. In recent times Pakistan has even had a recognised ‘third gender’ on official government documents, cementing their place in society.”

He continued,” Despite this recognition, however, they are marginalised and often earn a living through dancing, sex work or a kind of spiritual begging (it is believed their prayers and curses carry more weight, so it’s best not to anger them, and instead to seek their blessings). Same sex relationships are very common in Pakistan and often not thought of as a sign of homosexuality.”

“In many ways, this is a non-binary culture – in terms of gender, sexuality, and faith. Religiously observant transgender sex workers who live by exacting a spiritual tax is a good example of this.
Known as Khwaaja Sarai (or disparagingly and more commonly as ‘Hijra’) they trace their lineage at least as far back as being an important part of the Mughal royal court and administration,” he went on to say.

Ahmed also wrote a little about the ancient custom of the community of adopting newcomers into guru and disciple relationships. “Financial and social rights and responsibilities flow both ways in an interdependent, although sometimes exploitative ‘family’ system,” he concluded.



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