PAKISTAN’S FIRST TRANSGENDER MODEL: KAMI SID

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Transgenders reflects a group of people who enjoy the least number of rights in Pakistan. Due to the controversial nature and typical mindset of people, transgender rights in Pakistan are not even discussed in sophisticated circles. Most people do not even consider them as a part of their community; massive rejections are often faced by the community in most of the parts of Pakistan.

Unlike all of us, a transgender career path is not simple and straight, for they have to make extra efforts to be accepted in the world of ‘commoners ‘. To prove themselves efficient enough, people like Kami Sid choose to take the tough path in order to make their lives better. In an exclusive interview with ‘The Daily Beat’ Sid spoke about her journey, her initiatives as an activist, and the troubles faced by transgender people in the society. Read on…  

The Daily Beat (TDB): How do you look at the term ‘Transgender’?

Kami Sid (KS): In Pakistan people turn a blind eye towards this term and categorize ‘Khawaja Sara’ and ‘Transgenders’ into one umbrella. ‘Transgender’ (Mutajannis) is a western terminology; there’s also a term ‘Hijra’ that is not acceptable in Pakistan but in India, it is very common. The terminologies have been changing with time. My identity is very important for me; therefore, ‘transgender’ as a term is very vital. It’s a decent term. It identifies me as an individual. I like to be called a ‘Transgender Women’.

(TDB): It is said that rejection of a transgender person starts from the family, relatives, and society. I am curious to know about your journey?

(KS): Indeed, our families don’t accept us due to social pressures. Even our relatives and society members overlook us as we don’t fit into their mold of set standards. My family accepted me to a certain extent, but things went sour when I decided to come out as Pakistan’s first transgender model. I faced severe backlash, but I moved on. I am an activist, and activism starts from home. Just imagine, a child who isn’t aware of his sexual orientation and gender expression; how will he express it to his family. Having said that, it’s important to make them understand the scenario at first, rather than focusing on society. As of now, my family is still reluctant and doesn’t accept me in this avatar. I have the right to live life on my terms. I feel, time is the best healer and things will get better soon between us. Also, it is sad to see that there is no awareness regarding this in our system or curriculum. Schools, colleges, and universities should pay heed in spreading awareness so that such people can identify and deal with it. I hope and pray that the upcoming generations won’t face such issues and they will be accepted by their families openheartedly.

(TDB): What is a typical transgender community in Pakistan like? What are the basic problems they face in day-to-day life?

(KS): The trans community lives in groups together; they mostly beg for a living. Over the past year’s things have changed for the worse especially when the community members took up sex work. I don’t have the right to label a profession as good or bad when I can’t provide a platform to them. Whatever opportunity they get; they utilize it for a living. On the contrary, it’s shocking to see when a qualified person of the society having a Masters’s degree doesn’t get a job on merit and seeks a recommendation. Why would the society help us to live a fulfilling life? They look upon us as disabled and disordered individuals. Adding more to the horror is that, we don’t have any support from the government. 

(TDB): What keeps you motivated as an activist for this community?

(KS): Well, there are a lot of things that keeps me going on. Allah Almighty has chosen me; I am a voice of the people of my community; I constantly strive to the best of my capabilities to work for their betterment. There should be an end to shelter lessness. It’s time to strengthen our system and embed this mindset in the social fabric of the society that, being a transgender is as normal as any man or woman in the society.

(TDB): What steps are you taking to prevent gender-based violence against transgender?

(KS): There is no proper structure within the community to cope up with such issues. I along with my organization initiated a platform ‘Transgender Task Force Team Work Against Violence & Harassment’ in 2018We have appointed trans people from various towns across Karachi. They address the issues related to violence in different areas of the city and within the community as well. We collectively study all the cases and solve them with the help of referrals, police, and government. To date, we have resolved over twenty-five cases; some are still being heard at the court, while many criminals are punished for their offensive acts.

(TDB): Within the community, you’re something of an exception. Have you ever experienced resentment from others who don’t have these opportunities?

(KS): The trans community is also human; good and bad people are part of every society. Some are jealous and don’t let others succeed. I would like to mention that such people aren’t just prevalent in our community but people from outside are also involved. I don’t think too much, I perform my duties along with my community members and they respect me a lot. The members who create troubles; I wish and hope that their attitude would change with time.

(TDB): You have achieved a lot to be proud of. You are multifaceted: you are a human rights activist, an actress, model, and diva. What more lies ahead? 

(KS): I am a human and then an activist, actor, etc. I remember when I first started working for the blood bank sector (HIV AIDS department), I realized that there are so many issues to work on. Recently I made six transgenders enrolled in a fashion design course; they competed the course with flying colors. We now, aim to launch a new clothing line with which we could help the community and provide them better opportunities and platforms. It is an uphill task to be an activist. I don’t just sit at home and talk. I put my life at stake; at times I get up at 4 am to save someone’s life. Especially when my family and society aren’t supportive. Having said that; I believe the show must go on; I will continue to do my best.

(TDB): You’ve turned director with ‘Sangat’? How was the experience of working behind the camera?

(KS): ‘Sangat’ was a collaboration with an international organization during the COVID-19 lockdown. During that tenure, I did a three-month film course based on the rights of the LGBT community for countries where there are no rights for them. I learned, to shoot and edit a film with a mobile phone. It was exciting as I knew what will work and what won’t. It was an enriching experience, to work behind the camera.

(TDB): What’s next? Tell us about your future projects

(KS): I aim to continue my studies; I hope to get an opportunity to study abroad and come back to Pakistan and serve my country. This is what I do best; I love to work together with my community. I am a very grounded person. I hope that 2021 would be a great year for everyone.

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