Transgenders: Pakistan’s Open Secret (LGBT)
In a never-before-seen side of life in Pakistan, this film follows the stories of three transgender people, each of whom represent a different way of life in Pakistan.
Flamboyant, colourful and eccentric, many amongst Pakistan’s transgender community scrape a living together through dancing, singing and begging on the mean streets of Karachi, the country’s economic capital. Many, though, earn money catering for the sexual needs of local men in the city’s seedier districts.
Thrown out by their families as children, the lucky ones find their way to the tougher parts of the city where, hidden from the conservative mainstream, groups of outcast transsexuals have come together to create whole underground communities or ‘families’.
Transgenders: Pakistan’s Open Secret follows the stories of three individuals. Maggie is a prostitute who dreams of becoming an airhostess while Chahat was abandoned to the streets by her middle-class family for her feminine ways. Sana is Karachi’s most sought-after transgender dancer, who wants to give up the profession after a particularly gruesome gang-rape.
Transgender people were until very recently not entitled to Pakistani nationality. They still have scant access to education, employment or state protection, and are frequently victims of violence.
It’s true to say that most of Karachi’s population tolerate them, partly due to beliefs that they can give blessings towards a happy and successful life and, equally, the threat that they may curse those who treat them badly.
The film also reflects the guru system within the transgender community where young novices are bought and sold, and forced to make money for their elders. Some outsiders consider this to be a form of slavery but this is disputed by the elders who say it’s part of their custom and not slavery.
But there is hope on the horizon: the local tax office has advertised for transgenders to work as tax collectors. Clever government officials have realized that the embarrassment factor of a group of multi-coloured, singing she-males is enough to make even the most stubborn of evaders pay up.
Can Sana get one of those jobs? Will Chahat ever escape the desperate poverty she faces on a daily basis? And will Maggie fulfil her dream to fly away?