Beyond legal recognition of the third gender, wider social acceptability can open up an overture for their education in regular schools and colleges. Education in turn can enhance their acceptability in society. Despite being granted certain rights by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, discrimination, humiliation, harassment and persecution continue unabated. Society’s trans-phobic attitudes towards gender non-conformists create an exclusionist academic atmosphere that, unfortunately, is accepted. Much of that is rooted in socio-religiously sanctioned strict gender-boundaries and abhorrence for intersexuality. Discouraging enrollment and causing premature dropout or poor-learning, such tendencies have also crept into academic milieus. 7 to 12 is the age in child’s life when a child begins to learn socio-cultural norms as well as practical skills for the rest of their life. For a trans-girl/boy, the phase reveals his/her sexual distinction to him/herself as well to his/her parents, teachers and classmates too. Trauma and tribulation commence then. “When I was 9 or 10, I remember, I preferred putting on nail polish or grabbing girlish things rather than chasing the football”, says Arooj — a transgender. This bent of the psyche made my classmates tease me”. “At the age of 10, my mother’s dupatta, jewelry and make-up were the center of my attention. I never found it problematic but my parents and friends did,” states Hina. Recalling her childhood experiences, says another transgender, “My father would punish me for mistakes I never committed. Once my cousin lashed out at me with a rubber nozzle. Why did I look like a girl, he shouted. Except my father and brother, every other cousin and classmate would fondle my body sensually. Frustrated, I dropped out before finishing my school and joined a guru,” she added. “In a bid to fix my feminine characteristics, my parents forced me to undergo treatment from a physician. But I was confident, this is how I was created by God. My parents thought that I was a curse for their sins,” says V Khan. “I did my matriculation and never looked back.” In the words of another transman, “Once my mother breathed her last breath, it was impossible to complete my education. My father and brothers never allowed me to go out, meet relatives or family friends. They would not even allow me to attend a phone call or browse a book. I brought them shame, my father would mumble. When I was in class 3 or 4, my classmates used to mimic my style. I lost confidence in myself and refrained from going out to play. Even some of the teachers abused me sexually. How could I continue my studies then?” Ideally, schools help children to grow confident but for gender-deviant students in a gender-conscious environment; 8:00 am to 2:00 pm is no less than an ordeal. Anxiety, depression and low self-esteem is what they gather from there. Criticism and ridicule is what they are assaulted with. While at school, they struggle with their own self, as well as with their teachers and peer groups. Most transgenders pinpoint similar reasons for quitting school or never getting enrolled. Home proves equally uncomfortable. Ascribed to the male gender at birth, when heels or sister’s apparel attract one, family-members admonish the child to behave normally. The child fails to understand the odd behaviour until teenage years. In the first decade of schooling, a feminine boy goes through several psychosocial distresses. Before educating fellow students, teachers and parents need to be educated first about biosocial variation Sexually eclectic students often become easy victim of discrimination and harassment inside the school and university campuses. Seniors, classmates and apathetic teachers abuse, mock and bully them. Hence much of their learning in life is spent in isolation, anxiety and fear. They evade canteens, bus points, fun-fairs and get-togethers. Having faced so much humiliation and rejection, they find the transgenders world charming. Being young and beautiful in the beginning, here, they are deeply admired, showered with wealth. Chauvinist, patriarchal and sexist behaviours lure them further into prostitution, duped with blackmailing and witch-hunt. Redundancy and rejectionist responses, eventually, ensnare them in an intra-transgender guru-chela system of slavery, prostitution and recurrent rapes. On their part, however, it is an effort to escape from the psychosocial stress that they went through in schools and household compounds. Surpassing 40, they realize their illiteracy and unemployability, what a tragedy this is. Better education, technical and psychosocial skills can gradually make them accepted as equally respectable human individuals and citizens of Pakistan. Before educating fellow students, teachers and parents need to be educated first about biosocial variation. Their different psychosocial predispositions need to be understood. Children, in-fact, need love and care more than usual. Also relevant subjects need to interpret the natural probability of this bio-psychological diversity. Common myths and stigmas associated with the transgender need to be dispelled by appointing transgender teachers and inviting them as occasional guests. At least 0.5 percent quota should be allocated to them in all schools, colleges and practical fields of life. Open University’s decision to facilitate transgender students free of charge is the right decision. Specialized Schools are an admirable idea but not the solution. Given their ratio in fractions, public and private institutes should waive their fee off. Recently, Pakistan National Literacy Programme has offered them free primary and secondary education along with tailor-made skill-enhancing opportunities. The programme needs to be expanded and expedited. The most important objective is to create a third gender friendly academic environment where they are perceived as normal students. Institutionalized discrimination and repulsion in a school or college, if proven, must be penalized. Nothing else save respectable education and honourable employment can build their sense of worth in all spheres of life. The author is an executive director of IDRAC. He can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, October 26th 2018.