ISLAMABAD: “Sometimes I feel like I’m being put under a microscope by a lot of people coming to my office for their ID cards. It felt like these people did not want me there. I feel as if they want to get rid of me. No one understands how much it hurts. I feel so attacked,” transgender Sonia, who works at the National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) at Bara Kahu says. With light makeup on and carrying a purse, Sonia seems confident handing out ID cards from a counter. It is hard for her to be seen by judgemental eyes from the clients who come in but her office environment is very liberal and her colleagues make her feel comfortable. The transgender community is facing immense problems in acquiring social acceptance, jobs and an identity among others. During a survey, the transgender community expressed high hopes with the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar who recently decided to employ two transgender persons at the Supreme Court. According to them, the decision would change attitudes and mindset about transgender persons. For obvious reasons, they added that offering a transgender a job and providing them with a comfortable working environment can really help change people’s minds about them. A transgender beggar Lucky says, “Acha hai baji, hamari bhi kismat badli jaegi,” (It’s a good move, ma’am. Our fate will also change) Like Lucky, Rania is also a beggar on the streets of Shahpur. Surprisingly, Rania is an educated transgender, having completed her matriculation from a girls’ school in Murree, where her family lives. Though she is educated enough to at least get a basic job, the attitudes of people have forced her to the streets or dancing at parties. “My family does want me to come home, but here I am residing with five other transgender persons. It is easy to live with people who are like me and go through the same issues,” she said. She informed that her “Guru” lived in Rawalpindi and transgender activist Almas Bobby was her “Daadi Guru”. She further added that they all live like a family and share their joys and sorrows. Transgender persons face severe discriminations, stigma and systemic inequality because of their appearance. All the transgender persons who reside with Rania have their own story. According to them, it is not an easy task to be teased and bullied around. They all reside in a two-room rented apartment and are hardly able to bear their daily expenses. They expressed that transgender people were often thrown out by their families. “Parents need to know that such children are not to be ashamed of. We are human beings too and we have feelings like others,” Rania said. Surely, transgender persons are worth more than begging on the streets or dancing at parties. Those who are abused don’t speak up because they don’t even realise that they are going through violence and discrimination. They are so used to it, thinking it’s a normal way to live. The recently introduced law on the rights of transgender persons in Pakistan is a landmark achievement especially for a community that is so marginalised economically and often doesn’t know what their own rights are. It has been learnt that many transgender persons whether they are associated with posh or rural localities or not were unaware of the law that is especially formalised for changing their lives. Syeda Viqarunnisa Hashmi says the law accords citizens the right to self-identify as male, female or a blend of both genders and to have that identity registered on all official documents, including National Identification Cards, passports, driver’s licenses and education certificates. She opined that a positive change in thinking and attitudes of the people is a need of time. No reliable official figures exist for the number of transgender citizens in Pakistan. Advocacy group Trans Action has estimated that at least 500,000 of the country’s 207 million population identifies as transgender. The country’s total population of transgender people reported in the sixth Population & Housing Census is 10,418. The second highest population of transgender people is in Sindh amounting to 2,527, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa houses 913 transgender people and Balochistan 109. In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the population of transgender people is 27 and in Islamabad it’s 133. It is to be mentioned that on the order of the SC, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics included separate codes for disabled and transgender people in the census, which was conducted after a lapse of over 18 years. Published in Daily Times, September 15th 2018.