Pakistan: Officially recognized but publicly shamed

One Friday night earlier this year, a nervous but meticulously made-up crowd of transgender women sat in the upper circle of the smart Al Hamra Arts complex in Lahore, Pakistan. Bored with waiting for the performance to begin, one and then all of them stood up to take in a better view of the surroundings. The rest of the audience gawked at the sight before them: Pakistani transgender women are ordinarily found dancing at tawdry wedding parties or turning tricks. Certainly never as patrons at an upscale theatre.

That night, however, they were to be centre stage, performing "Theesri Dhun" ("Third Tune"), a rare and unique dramatization of real-life transgender stories. With harrowing tales of rape, police brutality and social stigma, it made for sombre viewing.

It also shed a light on Pakistan's complicated and disturbing LGBT rights landscape, where trans people technically enjoy better rights than in many places around the world, but in practice face violence and stigma. Even so, they are worlds ahead of Pakistani gay men, who are outlawed, brutalized and even murdered with no recourse to protection. 

While trans women are the success story amongst LGBT Pakistanis, their counterparts, transgender men — people born biologically female but who identify as male — barely register on the national conscience. Technically they should also be able to register as third gender but none has ever attempted it. Read more via Vice News