Transgender people come from all walks of life. They are parents, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They are your co-workers and your neighbours. They are 7-year-old children and 70-year-old persons. They are a diverse community, representing all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as the antecedents of faith. The word “transgender” — or Trans — is a general term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex they are assigned at birth. Although, the word “transgender” and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late twentieth century, people who fit this definition have existed in all cultures throughout history. Despite the greater visibility of transgender persons even in a country like America, with celebrities such as actress Laverne Cox or writer Janet Mock, many Americans do not yet personally know anyone who is transgender, but the number of people who do know a transgender person is growing rapidly. According to a 2016 survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign, 35 percent of potential voters in the United States “know personally or work with someone who is transgender.” That’s more than double the 17 percent who answered yes when they were asked the same question in 2014. At a national consultation organised by the All Pakistan Transgender Election Network (APTEN) in collaboration with the Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP), it was officially announced that 13 transgender persons will be contesting in the general elections. All possible candidates and representatives of their assigned electoral districts attended the national consultation, where they highlighted their demands and the importance of political inclusion and the empowerment of transgender people in Pakistan. Some of the potential candidates include Farzana Riaz (NA-33) Arzu Khan (PK-33) Lubna (PP-26) Komal (PP-38) Lady Bhutto (PP-189) Nayab (NA -142) Nadeem Kasish (Candidate for the National Assembly) Ashee (Punjab Candidate) and others. The objective of this consultation was to bring all the candidates and other interested parties together to the discussion table, where they were able to share their concerns and decide a way forward. The main concerns of the candidates were related to their identity documents, among other things. Some of them complained about being classified as a man on their National Identity Card (NIC), while they identify as a woman. The Special Community on the Rights of Transgender Persons (KP), and a member of the National Task Force, said that the ECP Act 2017, Article 48 A includes the transgender community in the vulnerable group, which means that they will not be required to remain in line and will be given priority voting rights. This year the community has set up APTEN, which will provide them with a platform from which the elections will be held in an organised manner “The staff of the polling station will make sure to cast their votes as soon as they arrive at the polling station,” he said. In the previous elections, four transgender people contested the general elections but could not do so in the correct order. However, this year the community has setup APTEN, which will provide them with a [transgender] platform from which the elections will be held in an organised manner. Announcing their candidacy and contesting the elections is historic given the staggering rates of violence and discrimination faced by transgender people across the country. The Additional Director General (Gender Affairs) Nighat Siddique said: “In the next electoral process, ECP will guarantee a friendly and inclusive system for the transgender community not only as voters but also as candidates.” Last year, this community of people made history by casting their vote for their own political representatives. This decision of the Supreme Court was presided over successfully by the former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. In 2009, the Supreme Court also approved the inclusion of a “third gender” in the national identity form. Transgender people in Pakistan obtained the right to register as a third gender in 2012. A three-member tribunal of the Supreme Court, headed by former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, ruled that the transgender community has the same right to rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens, including the right to inheritance after the death of parents, work opportunities, free education and medical care. Although, their rights are guaranteed on paper, members of the transgender community say they do not have these rights in practice and the provincial welfare departments have yet to implement the decision. Nonetheless, it is a great achievement that transgender people have been included in the upcoming elections and the commission will formulate a viable strategy to facilitate this community in the electoral process as voters and candidates. The writer is an advocate High Court Islamabad and teaches at Best Law College, Rawalpindi Published in Daily Times, July 5th 2018.