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January 2, 2018

A transgender who wants to change mindset


January 2, 2018

LAHORE: Living in a densely-populated area of Mochi Gate in the Walled City, Annie, 52, is a proud and confident transgender woman, who sells toys at Anarkali Bazaar.

"My parents named me Younas, but I never fitted into the character. I named myself Annie. I always loved dressing up like girls. My mother loved me more than my other siblings and encouraged me to get education. I passed matriculation in science and I wanted to be a tailor," she said. Transgenders are usually disowned by their parents and other family members. However, Annie was blessed with a family who accepted her and she lives with her brothers, sister-in-law, nephews and nieces.

She said, "I haven't changed my relationships with my family. My nieces call me Uncle. Sometimes they call me aunt jokingly. But I share the same relationship with them. My looks didn't change my status or respect in my family.”

Her nephew expressed his love and affection towards his "uncle" and said, "He is elder than my father. He is very nice and kind to everyone. I sometime visit him on his stall and help him arrange toys. He is very spiritual and respects everyone's opinion.” Living with her family, she invites her sisters and brothers-in-law to dinner occasionally. Her bedroom is decorated with pictures of Jesus Christ and religious books. “I stay busy in household chores all day. I dress up before going to the stall. So, I can welcome my customers with decent looks,” she added. With love and trust of her parents, Annie turned her passion into a profession. "I worked 12 years as a professional tailor in Anarkali Bazaar,” she recounts.

She also fell in love with a guy. With a sparkle in her eyes and blush on her cheeks, she said, "I fell in love with a guy, who owned a cigarette stall in front of my tailor shop. I started sitting on his stall, which increased his sales but his family told me to stay away from him. He started fighting with me for money and ditched me. To take revenge, I started my own stall of cigarettes.”

Annie soon realised that selling cigarettes was not a good idea as she didn't want to harm others. "One day a boy of 15 or 16 years came to my stall and asked for a cigarette. I thought about its health consequences. I discussed it with my family and turned my cigarette stall into a toy stall," she said. She has been selling toys for 10 years now. She pushes her cart from the Mayo Hospital mortuary to Neela Gumbad, Anarkali Bazaar, daily. She starts her stall at 4pm and continues till midnight. Men and women stare her but it doesn't bother her now. "I used to be shy when I started my stall. I avoided eye contact with my customers initially. But now I am more confident,” she explains.

She wishes to have a better old age with her family. She visits church every Wednesday. "I pray God not to make me a burden on my family in my old age. I am not afraid of living alone. I always have God with me. Life is not a bed of roses. Each day I struggle hard but I do not lose hope, because I trust God," she said. “We should appreciate Annie as she has accepted herself what she is and earning for her family and herself in a respectable way. Mostly, natural transgenders live their lives in isolation and the darkness of loneliness. It is our duty to stop any cruel act towards them because they are equal in terms of basic rights in society,” said IA Rehman, a renowned human rights activist and former Human rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) secretary. “Love can change a person’s life and it has happened with Annie. She fell in love with a guy and her life got a new dimension,” he observed.

“Abandoning of transgenders in our society is a serious cruelty and inhuman behaviour. Islam has set some rules for them. It gives them the right to inheritance. In the era of our beloved Prophet (SAWW), transgenders were allowed to enter homes and they had a respectable status in society. We have also worked for their right to vote in the Council of Islamic Ideology. The government should make special training centres for their better future,” said Dr Samia Raheel Qazi, a religious scholar and president of the International Muslim Women Union, an NGO, with ECO SOC status in the UN and Member Council of Islamic Ideology and NCHD.

“When a child is born with disabilities, the family stand by them but when a transgender is born, the family disown it. Annie is mentally stronger than other transgenders because she has support from her family and friends,” said Dr Nabeel Ibad, a psychiatrist. "Living in a society where we cannot be ourselves is very hard. Annie is a remarkable transgender and I always cite her example in my community. Begging and dancing are not the only options for us. We can do anything we want," Saima, another transgender woman, said.

Annie said, “If I don't respect myself, no one will. First, we have to stand up for our rights and status in society. With a little effort, we can change the thinking of society.”

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