Pakistan is unique in the treatment of transgender people, often referred to as Khawaja Sara. They may be viewed as bearers of good fortune at times, but it is just as likely they might be considered outcasts. During wedding rituals or the birth of a child, they are invited to dance in the home—afterwards, they are cast out on the street to beg.
In the western world, the term transgender refers to those who identify as other than the gender they were assigned at birth. However, the word "transgender" in Pakistan is commonly used to refer to intersex persons, individuals born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't fit the binary categories, male or female. Many people turn a blind eye towards the intersex community and pay no attention to the terminology.
Where does the transgender community stand socially, politically and religiously in a developing country?
The past several years have given hope to the transgender community in Pakistan, particularly the intersex subculture. There have been small victories for the transgender: the government's inclusion of a third option under gender on the identification cards, inclusion in the census, and a transgender model beautifully pictured on the front page of a major magazine. These victories might seem small but are significant for a community that still has a long journey ahead.